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A tSAAC. _ 

Asimov 

SCIENCE FICTION* 

MAGAZINE 


Vol. 15 No. 12 & 13 (Whole Numbers 177 & 178) 
November 1991 
Next issue on sole 
October 15, 1991 

Novellas 

18 Forward the Foundation 

226 The Fourth Intercometary 


Isaac Asimov 

Phillip C. Jennings 


Novelettes 

120 Erogenoscape 

158 Torso 

182 An Outpost of the Empire 
200 The Adoption 

Short Stories 

98 The Bull Moose at Bay — 

107 Books 

148 Time’s Arrow 

216 Vinland the Dream 


.Walter Jon Williams 
-Leonard Carpenter 

Robert Silverberg 

Alexander Jablokov 


Mike Resnick 

Peni R. Griffin 

Jack McDevitt 

Kim Stanley Robinson 


Poetry 

From; A Child’s Garden of Grammar Tom Disch 

96 Nouns, Adjectives, Pronouns, If/Then, Maybe 

1 06 Verbs 

147 Strange Plurals 

156 Either/Or 

1 57 The Present Tense, Epitaph for the Past Tenses, The Future Tense_ 


216 



182 120 

Departments 

4 Editorial: The Dismal Science Isaac Asimov 

12 Letters 

304 On Books; Style Norman Spinrad 

320 The SF Conventional Calendar Erwin S. Strauss 

Cover art for "Forward the Foundation" by Wayne Barlowe 


Stories from lAsfm have won fourteen Hugos and seventeen Nebula 
awards, and our editors have received six Hugo awards for Best 
Editor. lAsfm was also the 1991 recipient of the Locus Award for Best 
Magazine. 


Isaac Asimov: Editorial Director 

Joel Davis: President Gardner Dozois: Editor 

Sheila Williams: Managing Editor 

A. Bruce Chatferton: Publisher Terri Czeczko: Art Director 


Published every 28 days which includes special issues in April and November by Davis Publications. Inc. at 
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#R12393128 



EPrORIAI 

THE DISMAL SCIENCE 



by Isaac Asimov 


In 1849, Thomas Carlyle re- 
ferred to economics as “the dismal 
science,” and so I have always 
found it. I cannot understand it, 
and I cannot believe that anyone 
else understands it, either. People 
may say they understand it and 
economists even win Nobel Prizes, 
but I think it’s all a fake. 

For instance, in a recent New 
York Times Magazine article, the 
tale is told of a bet made by two 
economists. One said that the cost 
of certain key metals would rise 
over the next ten years, because he 
felt that rising population and the 
declining availability of resources 
would make that necessary. The 
other said that the cost would de- 
cline over the next ten years be- 
cause of advancing technology and 
because the higher the population 
the better-off the world would be. 

Naturally, I was all on the side 
of the pessimist and judge my sur- 
prise when it turned out he had 
lost the bet; that the prices of the 
metals had indeed fallen; that 
grain was cheaper; that oil (allow- 
ing for inflation) was cheaper; and 
so on. 

I was thunderstruck. Was it pos- 
sible, I thought, that something 


that seems so obvious to me — that 
a steadily rising population is 
deadly — can be wrong? 

Yes, it could be. I am frequently 
wrong. 

However, it occurred to me that 
inflation is a world-wide phenome- 
non and has been for a long, long 
time. Even in those nations where 
inflation is “under control,” as in 
the United States of America, 
what we really mean is that prices 
are going up only 3 to 5 percent a 
year. If basic commodities are go- 
ing down in price, what is it that’s 
going up and drowning them out? 

I don’t understand this. 

There are other things I don’t 
understand. 

Right now, it is clear that what 
the American public does not want 
and will not endure is higher taxes. 
They will vote down any attempt 
to raise taxes, if they have a 
chance, and they do everything but 
lynch legislators who suggest 
higher taxes. 

On the other hand, another 
thing the American public does not 
want is to have their handouts 
taken away. They’ll kill any legis- 
lator who will suggest a cut in so- 
cial security (let alone wiping it 


4 


out altogether) or a cut in medicare 
or a cut in pensions. Furthermore, 
the American public wants to fight 
crime and drugs by having more 
policemen and more prisons and 
longer prison sentences and so on. 

Then, too, we can’t really allow 
highways to deteriorate and brid- 
ges to break down and buildings to 
decay — at least not beyond a cer- 
tain point. The “infrastructure,” as 
we now call it, must be main- 
tained. What’s more we want clean 
air, and clean water, and clean soil, 
and no pollution. 

Oh, yes, and we want the big- 
gest, best, and most advanced 
army in the world so we can fight 
off the deadly threats from Gre- 
nada and Panama, to say nothing 
of the deeds of our erstwhile buddy- 
pal, Saddam Hussein. 

All that costs money, lots of 
money. Where is the money to 
come from in a society that says 
firmly and screechingly, “No 
taxes”? 

Easy. We borrow the money. 

Once Ronald Reagan became 
president on a platform of getting 
government off the back of Ameri- 
can business, he kept taxes from 
rising, and spent a trillion dollars 
on the armed forces. The trillion 
dollars was borrowed, with the re- 
sult that the national debt has tri- 
pled during the course of the 1980s 
and is well beyond three trillion 
dollars now, while the annual 
deficit keeps going up, too, despite 
everything the government can do 
in cutting down on social services 
and regulatory activities. 


ISAAC ASIMOV: 

Edfkxiol Dffectof 

GARDNER DOZOIS: 

Editor 

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EDITORIAL: THE DISMAL SCIENCE 


5 


Does it matter whether we tax or 
borrow? After all, if we tax, we 
take the money out of American 
pockets and if we borrow, we don’t. 
Isn’t that simple? 

Maybe. I don’t understand these 
things. It does seem to me, though, 
that there is a difference. 

If the American people are taxed 
by means of a progressive income 
tax, then rich people pay more 
money than poor people, while 
poor people very naturally get 
more services (because they need 
more) than rich people. There is 
thus a shift of money from the rich 
to the poor. 

This may not seem fair to people 
who are well off (as I am, for in- 
stance). I could very well argue 
that I’ve worked hard all my life 
and made full use of my talents, so 
that starting from absolute zero, I 
have made myself a reasonably 
wealthy man. Why should I give 
away some of my money to a bunch 
of incapable ne’er-do-wells? 

The answer is easy. They’re not a 
bunch of incapable ne’er-do-wells. 
They may well have worked 
harder than I did, but lacked my 
talent or my luck. In the second 
place, by allowing money to slide 
from rich to poor, we set up a sta- 
bler and better society, from which 
the well-off benefit as well as the 
poor. 

Suppose we borrow instead. The 
government decides not to take 
$100,000 of my hard-earned 
money. Instead it would prefer to 
have me buy $100,000 in govern- 
ment bonds. Fine! Anything the 


government taxes, they keep and I 
never see it again. But if I invest 
in bonds instead, the money is still 
mine and the government pays me 
interest for the use of it. 

I’m much better off buying bonds 
than paying taxes, but the govern- 
ment isn’t. Every year, it has to 
pay interest on the money it bor- 
rows and it is my understanding 
that the annual payment is well 
over 150 billion dollars now and 
still going up. And the government 
must pay it, for if it fails to do so 
that is called bankruptcy and ev- 
eryone who has lent money to the 
government will try to get it back 
at once. 

The result of borrowing, then, is 
that the government must pay 
money constantly to those people 
who can afford to buy bonds in 
quantity (usually tax-free bonds so 
that they don’t have to contribute 
to the taxation with the money 
they make). In order to get the 
money to pay them, social services 
are pinched so that what it 
amounts to is the precise reverse 
of taxation — money flows from the 
poor to the rich. 

Do I benefit from this? No, I 
don’t, at least not in the long run, 
for the process destabilizes society 
and makes the world a more dan- 
gerous place in which to live, espe- 
cially for those who are, if I may 
use the term, “lootable” by an 
aroused and impoverished people. 
I don’t want to hang onto my 
money at the price of the guil- 
lotine. 

Here’s something else that per- 

ISAAC ASIMOV 


6 



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haps I might understand if I knew 
anything at all about economics. 
We’re “controlling” inflation. The 
inflation rate which had grown 
dangerously high under Carter, 
got much lower under Reagan. 
Why? 

To me, the answer seems easy. 
We’ve encouraged the importation 
of goods from abroad. The foreign 
goods were manufactured by peo- 
ple who work for lower wages than 
Americans do, so the price is lower 
and inflation is decreased. The 
only bad thing about it is that it 
destroys American industries. I 
understand that American textiles 
and American shoes and American 
steel have sunk into the sub-base- 
ment. American automobiles can’t 
compete with the Japanese. In fact, 
all our electronic industries can’t 
compete. 

About a year ago, I watched an 
item on the news in which it was 
pointed out that Japan was send- 
ing us advanced equipment and we 
were sending them chopsticks. 

There is, of course, a constant 
drain as more money leaves the 
country for imports than comes 
back for exports. Perhaps if I un- 
derstood economics then I would 
understand why this is a good way 
of fighting inflation. 

As I said earlier, under Reagan 
we spent a trillion dollars on the 
armed forces. There are those who 
think that it was the unprece- 
dented increase in our strength 
that forced the Soviet Union into 
virtual bankruptcy and put an end 
to its empire and to the Cold War. 


My own feeling is that the western 
world fought an economic war 
against the Soviet Union since it 
was first founded and that the So- 
viet Union finally collapsed as a re- 
sult. The wonder is that it survived 
for three quarters of a century, 
fighting off not only an unrelent- 
ing economic war by the west but 
an enormous Nazi invasion. Some- 
day when we are less driven by ide- 
ology, we may spare them a modest 
hand-clap for their stolid resis- 
tance. 

But if the Soviet Union lost, that 
does not mean we won. We paid a 
price for the economic war, too. The 
trillion dollars we spent on the 
armed forces was money spent for 
purely useless purposes and it was 
a trillion dollars we couldn’t spend 
on other things of far greater 
value. (Or say half a trillion for the 
armed forces and half a trillion for 
useful projects.) 

The result is that here we are 
with a terrific army for which we 
have no real use. It’s right there 
and we’re so proud of it. Our 
schools are beneath contempt and, 
of all the industrial nations, our 
children are the most ignorant. 
Our drug culture is worse than it 
is anywhere else. We kill more peo- 
ple with guns in the hands of 
armed civilians than are killed in 
all the rest of the world put to- 
gether. And so on and so on. 

But look at our tanks and planes 
and helicopters. Who needs an edu- 
cated and happy society while we 
have stealth bombers and can 
spend billions of dollars on a cocka- 


8 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


mamie hootenanny like “Star 
Wars”? 

Mind you, it’s not just spending 
money on the army. It is the gen- 
eral feeling that business and gov- 
ernment go hand in hand; that 
once a government official deals 
with business, he joins that busi- 
ness when he retires from govern- 
ment. 

Or once a regulator retires he 
joins the business he was sup- 
pose to be regulating. You can 
imagine how carefully such offi- 
cials labor to keep business from 
cheating the people. 

And, as a matter of fact, they 
don’t. The 1980s were the decade 
of greed in which arms manufac- 
turers, with virtual impunity, 
overcharged recklessly for under- 
quality supplies, and the govern- 


ment looked the other way. A sol- 
dier who would refuse to charge 
into enemy machine guns would be 
promptly court-martialed and 
shot, but a businessman who sold 
inferior rivets to the army at a 
thousand percent markup, and en- 
dangered the lives of countless sol- 
diers, gets a slap on the wrist. 

What’s more, under the Reagan 
administration, regulation became 
a dirty word. Business must not 
have the government on its back. 
An atmosphere was created that 
made it possible for savings and 
loans associations, for instance, to 
conduct their business recklessly 
and buy off government officials, or 
if they were too honest to take 
money, to get them fired. 

It is fashionable to spread the 
blame for the S and L debacle over 



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government generally, and five 
senators are loaded down with an 
ethics investigation. However, I’m 
a simple-minded fellow and I put 
the blame on the guy who was in 
charge. 

Ronald Reagan set the fashion of 
buddy-buddying business and 
looking the other way, and no one 
else in government dared cross 
him because he was so popular. 
(You can get anywhere with the 
American people, if you have a 
goofy smile, dyed wavy hair, and 
are plainly stupid.) 

In October 1987, when the stock 
market underwent a fainting spell, 
everyone started talking, “Deficit, 
deficit, deficit.” We had to do some- 
thing about the deficit. We didn’t 
do a darn thing. The stock market 
recovered and the deficit is now far 
worse than it was in 1987 and so is 
the national debt. 

Are we going to do an)d.hing? 

What can we do? 

The thing is that the world has 
gone through this before on several 
occasions. The example that is 
closest to our present situation is 
that of the Spain of Philip II in the 
1500s. 

Spain at that time had the finest 
army in Europe. It was unbeat- 
able. It won every battle. What’s 
more, Spain had the largest empire 
in the world. It controlled all of 
Latin America, large parts of the 
African and Asian coastlines. It 
had an endless supply of gold from 
Peru and Mexico. 

However, Spain considered itself 
the policeman of Europe. It was the 


ideological champion of the world. 
It fought for Catholicism and was 
against Protestantism wherever it 
appeared. It was also against the 
Turks though not with quite the 
ardor with which it faced down 
Protestantism. 

One must admire Philip II. He 
was no tyrant (except for his reli- 
gious bigotry) and he was as hard- 
working as any king who ever 
lived. He was sincere in his beliefs 
and he bore up against disappoint- 
ment. When he sent the “Invinci- 
ble Armada” against England in 
1588 and had it destroyed, he 
bowed to the will of God and did 
not blame the losing admiral, but 
treated him with sympathetic de- 
cency. 

However, he set Spain tasks too 
great for itself. Spain, in its simple- 
minded concentration on ideologi- 
cal confrontation, allowed its econ- 
omy to go to Hades, allowed its peo- 
ple to remain uneducated (lest 
they pick up dangerous and hereti- 
cal notions), allowed its trade to 
dwindle. 

Meanwhile, England, France, 
and the Netherlands, far weaker 
militarily, encouraged trade and 
built up their economies and by 
1600 they were competing among 
themselves for world domination 
(England, later Great Britain, won 
out) while Spain by the time of 
Philip’s death in 1598 had become 
a minor power and has remained 
one ever since. 

Can you see the similarity? I 
can. The United States has become 
the ideological policeman of the 


10 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


world and has set itself tasks too 
great for itself. It has allowed its 
economy to go to Hades in its sim- 
ple-minded pursuit of military 
power and it mistakes that mili- 
tary power for true strength. 

Meanwhile, Germany and Ja- 
pan, the two nations defeated cata- 
strophically in World War II, are 
the true economic giants on Earth 
now. We have refused to allow 
them armed forces but have placed 
them under our umbrella and the 
price of our arrogance is that since 
1945, they have grown steadily 
stronger, and we have grown 
steadily weaker. 

In connection with the Gulf cri- 
sis, we see the United States, un- 
able to cover its own expenses by 
raising taxes, having to hold out 
its tin can to Germany and Japan 
and beg for money. (We also want 
money from Saudi Arabia, but that 
at least is our own money which 
we gave them for oil supplies at a 
higher price than existed before 
the Gulf crisis.) 

Again, Bush absolutely refuses 
to allow Congress to have any say 
in the development (if any) of the 
Gulf crisis. He is anxious to be 
strong and resolute and avoid any 
suggestion that he is a wimp, at 
whatever cost to the nation. How- 
ever, Secretary of State Baker has 
gone from foreign nation to foreign 
nation, hat in hand, asking for sup- 
port. We can’t do it ourselves. 

And meanwhile, at home, we’re 
struggling with a recession. Do we 
have one? It is hard to get any 
economist to say that a recession 


exists because it would be unpatri- 
otic to say so. Until 1907, we called 
business downturns “panics.” That 
proved too harsh a word so in 1929, 
we called it a mere “depression.” 
That word became too terrible so 
in 1937 when there was another 
fainting spell, we called it a “reces- 
sion.” Now “recession” is too hard. 
I suppose we will have to speak of 
a “dent.” 

What we can do is to count the 
unemployed and the impoverished 
according to an outmoded system 
that guarantees an undercount. 
That allows us to be patriotic by 
lying to ourselves. 

We are, in short, in a bad way. 
As I write. Bush is in Latin 
America. He is selling the idea of 
democracy; but they are trying to 
sell the idea of debt relief How- 
ever, we can’t give them debt re- 
lief We need debt relief very badly 
ourselves. 

When Lithuania was trying to 
break loose from the Soviet Union, 
Bush, like Bre’r Fox, laid low. If we 
loudly supported Lithuanian inde- 
pendence, Lithuania, once inde- 
pendent, would turn to us for fi- 
nancial support, and we can no 
longer manage that. 

All this is economics and I don’t 
understand the dismal science. 
Undoubtedly, there will be numer- 
ous letters from readers telling me 
that I’m all wrong and that the 
United States is in great shape. If 
so, I earnestly hope they are right, 
because I don’t like what I see, and 
it would be nice if I were wrong. 

But I don’t think so. # 


EDITORIAL: THE DISMAL SCIENCE 


11 


Dear Dr. Asimov, 

As a faithful subscriber to this 
magazine, I am compelled to say 
that the quality of stories and arti- 
cles (especially yours), are excep- 
tional by any standards of litera- 
ture, not just in the SF genre. Keep 
it up! 

I always enjoy reading the fea- 
tured letters to you, but it seems 
that in trying to be fair in relation 
to the volume of letters received 
about one subject, it can become 
repetitious. I am specifically refer- 
ring to the April 1991 issue 
wherein virtually all of the letters 
printed referred to Harlan El- 
lison’s article on the woes of being 
famous. (If he thinks he has prob- 
lems, what about Jodie Foster? As 
far as I know, no one has tried to 
shoot the president just to get Mr. 
Ellison’s attention!) 

It is logical that most of the let- 
ters in this forum should be di- 
rectly concerned with comments 
regarding previously published 
stories and articles from this mag- 
azine, but we might all welcome a 
bit more diversity of subjects, in 
any given month. 

I, for one, look up to you as one 
of the few who can render complex 
ideas into simple understandable 
terms; some of your books have 
changed the way I look at the 
world. Books such as Beginnings (I 


have purchased three copies al- 
ready), Realm of Numbers, Fact 
and Fantasy, and As Far As the 
Eye Can See, just to name a few. 

There are others who have given 
me new ways to look at “what is,” 
notably: Steven Hawking’s, A 
Brief History of Time, Dr. Richard 
Muller’s, Nemesis, James Gleick’s 
Chaos and The Universe and Dr. 
Einstein by Richard Barnett. Each 
of them gave me one book; you, on 
the other hand, have given me 
many. 

I would like to close with a ques- 
tion that has never been answered 
to my satisfaction. I truly hope you 
can briefiy address this. 

In Einstein’s famous equation 
E = mc^. Energy equals mass times 
the speed of light squared. I do not 
understand how light speed can be 
a constant at 186,282 mps, and be 
squared if it cannot be exceeded? It 
seems to be a contradiction to me. 
Am I stupid? Or is this as hard as it 
looks, and I’m missing something? 
Sincerely, 

James L. Sartor 
439 Ripley Ave. 

Akron, OH 44312 

We got a whole flood of letters on 
the Ellison piece, so we published a 
number of them. 

As for squaring the speed of light, 
why not? Light goes at the maxi- 


mum speed, but squaring it does 
not produce a speed. Light doesn’t 
move at the square of the speed, the 
square is just a symbol in an 
equation. 

— Isaac Asimov 


Dear Dr. Asimov, 

I was less disturbed by Harlan 
Ellison’s essay, “Xenogenesis” 
(August 1990), than by the treat- 
ment of the letters responding to it 
(April 1991). 

Did the letters really run eight- 
to-one in Ellison’s favor? Did no 
one suggest Ellison’s own miscon- 
duct might inspire emulation 
among his fans? (Note, for exam- 
ple, the material in his essay about 
posing as a police officer to obtain 
an unlisted number.) 

Did you let Ellison pick the 
letters!? 

Yours disappointedly, 

Taras Wolansky 
Jersey City, NJ 

Ellison did not pick the letters we 
printed on his essay, "Xenogene- 
sis.” We did, and we did our best to 
pick a fair sampling. Don’t be so 
suspicious. 

— Isaac Asimov 


Dear Dr. Asimov, 

I read with interest Tudor Lewis’ 
letter about that butchered screen 
supposition (I don’t suppose it de- 
serves the term “adaptation”) of 
“Nightfall.” 

This is partly because the most 
recent time I read “Nightfall”, it 
occurred to me that except when 
they went down to barricade the 
door to prevent the rioters from 


getting into the observatory, the 
whole story took place in one room. 
This in turn means that it could be 
adapted into a one-act play suit- 
able for schools and such. 

Perhaps you should do an “au- 
thorized” adaptation and allow or- 
ganizations like schools to use it. 
This would have the added benefit 
of helping to “convince English 
teachers that science fiction has 
‘worth,’ ” as young Lewis com- 
plained. 

It would be a pleasure for me to 
get involved with the community 
theater wherever I settle down 
after I get my doctorate, and per- 
form in it. 

All the best (I don’t think I have 
to say, “and keep writing,” for 1 am 
sure you will). 

Sincerely, 

Ian Chai 
Overland Park, KS 

"Nightfall” has been novelized 
with the help of Bob Silverberg, and 
I think that that’s all that needs to 
be done for it. 

—Isaac Asimov 


Dear Dr. Asimov, 

I’d like to start off by saying that 
you are the greatest. I have all six 
of your Foundation books and am 
anxiously awaiting Forward the 
Foundation. The name makes me 
think it is going to take place right 
after Prelude to Foundation. I also 
have all four of the Robot Series. I 
also have Nemesis, The Gods 
Themselves, and The End of Eter- 
nity. I am waiting for Nightfall to 
come out in paperback before I get 
it. I also have volume 1 of The 
Complete Stories. I am even doing 


LEHERS 


13 


a research paper on you right now. 
I am using your autobiography for 
it and I am waiting for the third 
installment of it to be released. 

But I am not writing you to tell 
you the books that I have. At the 
end of Nemesis, Bantam Spectra 
state that The Gods Themselves 
and The End of Eternity are being 
reprinted. Those are the editions 
that I have, but I am wondering if 
the Galactic Empire series is going 
to be reprinted. I have searched ev- 
erywhere and can’t find anything 
except The Prisoners of the Stars 
and The Far Ends of Time and 
Earth in the library but I want 
them individually for my “Isaac 
Asimov Library.” Could you tell 
me if they are going to be reprinted 
or if they are still available some- 
where? 

Your #1 Fan, 

Andy Copp 
Locust Grove, WA 

As far as I know. Doubleday is 
planning to put out new uniformly- 
bound editions of all my novels. 
This is something publishers usu- 
ally do when an author is safely 
dead, but I suppose they don’t feel 
they have long to wait. 

— Isaac Asimov 


Dear Dr. Asimov: 

I have been a subscriber to your 
magazine since its inception and I 
have habitually read each issue 
cover to cover. Admittedly, I am 
not a fan of fantasy; nonetheless, I 
have enjoyed reading virtually ev- 
erything that has been published 
in your magazine. 

Not so with the “On Books” col- 
umn published in the February 


1991 issue. I bravely endured the 
first four pages of the column au- 
thored by Norman Spinard. Sev- 
eral times I was forced to refer to 
Webster’s to make sure that I knew 
what Mr. Spinard was saying; in 
one instance, I even diagrammed 
one of his rather complex senten- 
ces because that was the only way I 
could figure out what Spinard was 
talking about. (Sister Mary Pra- 
exedes, my sixth grade teacher, 
would have been proud of me.) 

In any event, once the author of 
the review spent four plus pages 
discussing “Latin American magic 
realism” and began to “review” the 
book which prompted that elabo- 
rate dissertation, Cortez on Jupiter 
by Ernest Hogan, Spinard never 
really said what the book was 
about. Now that I think about it, 
he never said what “Latin America 
magic realism” is, either. Admit- 
tedly, he did discuss its “surreal- 
istic surface texture,” the cultural 
matrices involved, and admit that 
it is retrospective yet creative. 

I must further admit that Mr. 
Spinard did outline the plots of the 
remaining books reviewed, al- 
though he seemed truly disap- 
pointed that the novel about a 
“contemporary American Jew” 
( Only Begotten Daughter by James 
Morrow) “turns Latin American 
magic realism literally inside out.” 
Quite honestly. I’m not surprised 
since, as Spinard noticed. Morrow 
used “tricks” developed “to create 
the literary illusion of verisimili- 
tude.” (Yup, I had to go to Webster’s 
for that one, too. I learned it was 
sorta like “mimetic” truth.) 

Anyway, the bottom line is this. 
I read and enjoy your book review 
column because of the many SF 


14 


LEHERS 


STEPHEN 

KING 


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out, copies may be ordered directly from the publisher. 

In The Waste Lands, the boy Jake along with Eddie Dean and 
Susannah, continue with Roland, the last gunslinger, in his 
strange odyssey. There are new evils, new dangers, in the 
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books published, only a few are in- 
teresting to me. Normally, your 
book review column gives me a 
very good idea of which newly pub- 
lished or released books will ap- 
peal to me. Mr. Spinard’s column 
was neither informative nor enter- 
taining. 

I felt much the same way about 
Spinard’s column that he felt about 
the prose in Cortez: “Stuff like [mi- 
metic, McLuhanistic, mysticalis- 
tic, and transmogrification] begins 
to seem forced, unnatural, like [a 
critic (?)] working with a diction- 
ary and not quite making it.” Now, 
I’m quite familiar with gobbledy- 
gook: I’m an attorney. I am daily 
subjected to and subject others to 
pages upon pages of legalisms, 
“buzzwords,” and unnecessary ver- 
biage. To paraphrase Justice 
Blackmun, I know wordy and un- 
intelligible jargon when 1 see it. 

Please delete the gobbledygook 
and bring back your quality book 
review columns. 

Very truly yours, 

Charles M. Sambol 
Oroville, CA 

Now, now, admittedly Spinrad 
has a large vocabulary and uses it, 
but it is possible that you yourself 
don’t understand it as well as you 
might because you have a little dif- 
ficulty in putting words together 
properly. For instance, Norman’s 
name is "Spinrad.” You’ve mis- 
spelled it eight times in your letter. 

— Isaac Asimov 


Dear Dr. Asimov: 

Having just read the letters in 
the April issue of lAsfm, 1 feel — 
probably like many others — that 1 


must add my two cents to the great 
debate over Harlan Ellison’s essay. 

Let me make a suggestion. I pro- 
pose that Mr. Ellison write another 
thirty-five page essay (perhaps he 
should give it as a speech first) de- 
tailing all the wonderful things 
that 95 percent of his fans, and the 
fans of his colleagues, have said 
and done over the years. He could 
start with mentioning the fact that 
they have paid his bills. Once this 
has been done, 1 move that we for- 
get the whole thing. 

The fact is, I doubt very much 
that he has accomplished very 
much with his essay. Of the 95 per- 
cent of his readers who are polite, 
decent people he has probably dis- 
turbed and upset half of them and 
annoyed the rest of them. Of the 5 
percent who are rude, crude, and 
possibly psychotic? He’s probably 
elated them. Most of them now re- 
alize that they have accomplished 
what they set out to do — harass 
and infuriate famous authors to 
the point of making their lives mis- 
erable. 

In conclusion, 1 would like to say 
that I enjoy your magazine im- 
mensely, and look forward to read- 
ing more controversial essays like 
Harlan Ellison’s. 

Very truly yours, 

Victoria S. Walker 
East Boston, MA 

7 disagree. Do you ever hear the 
people in charge speak about all the 
good kids who don’t take drugs? No 
indeed. All the conversation is 
about the minority that use drugs. 
I’m afraid that’s the way it is. A few 
bad apples spoil everything and it 
is those bad apples we speak of. 

—Isaac Asimov 


16 


LEHERS 


Dear lAsfm, 

I have to congratulate you on a 
wonderful magazine. My husband 
and I had been avid fans of Analog 
for many years and were very ex- 
cited when we bought our first copy 
of lAsfm, many, many, many 
moons ago. He still prefers A nafog, 
being rather a techno-nut, but I 
have found myself more eagerly 
awaiting your publication. I have 
only one small bone of contention. 
The magazine’s title clearly says 
“science fiction,” my major passion 
since the age of five, and nowhere 
do I see the word “fantasy,” a form 
of literature which never sat well 
with me due to its tendency to 
make writers lazy. I have to won- 
der, then, why I’m reading a fair 
amount of fantasy between its cov- 
ers. And you aren’t alone in that 
minor transgression. In the book- 
stores, I notice the same trend to- 
wards classifying some very obvi- 
ous works of fantasy as SF. I do 
hope and pray it’s merely a passing 
fad and that we will soon see a re- 
turn to pure, unsullied SF. In the 
meantime, I shall enjoy your mag- 
azine, and will have to skip over 
the fantasy in much the same way 
I skip over the poems. I have noth- 
ing against the poems, I consider 
them quite a valid form of SF, un- 
less of course I see the author 
struggling to find rhymes for wiz- 


ard or dragon (lizard and wagon?) 

. . . I just don’t happen to like 
poetry. 

So I thank you for putting out 
such an exemplary magazine, and 
for giving us fans so many hours of 
enjoyment with each issue. 
Sincerely, 

S.F. Singer 
Downsview, ONT 
Canada 

I, too, hope that fantasy is a pass- 
ing fad, but we are rather stuck 
with it. The writers insist on writ- 
ing fantasy. My own rather cynical 
thought is that writing good science 
fiction is a lot harder than writing 
fantasy and that may be what has 
made fantasy so popular in recent 
years. 

—Isaac Asimov 


EDITORS’ NOTE: 

We are proud to report that 
Isaac Asimov’s Science fiction 
Magazine placed third \n Mag- 
azine Week’s First Artnual Noted 
& Quoted Dry T-Shirt Contest. First 
place was a tie between Smith- 
sonian and The New Yorker. We 
still have a limited number of 
smalls and mediums available 
for $9.95. 


Customer Service or Subscriber Assistance 
Please direct all changes of address 
and subscription questions to: 

Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 
P.O. Box 7058 
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LEHERS 


17 




We proudly present the fi 
Foundation novella in 
forty-one years! While 
three new Foundation ^ 
novels have been published in the 
intervening time, the last short story 
appeared in the January 1950 
issue of Astounding Science 
Fiction. It is with great 
pleasure that we continu 
this classic s^rifis 




To be published by Doubleday. 



art: Gary Freeman 



mm" 


FORWARD 
THE . 
FOUNDATION 

by Isaac Asimov 


Introduction: FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 

The Foundation Saga deals with the fall of the first Galactic 
p Empire, twenty-thousand years from now, and the dark age 
that followed. The First Foundation and the Second Foun- 
dation are struggling to ameliorate the hard times and to 
establish a Second (and better) Galactic Empire. 

Their guidance in this is the science of psychohistory, de- 
vised by the great mathematician, Hari Seldon, which has 
the capacity to predict future trends in a statistical, if not 
absolute, sense. 

The first three books of the saga: Foundation, Foundation 
and Empire, and Second Foundation, written in the 1940s, 
cover the first three centuries after the fall of the Galactic 
Empire. The next two books: Foundation’s Edge and Foun- 
dation and Earth, written in the 1980s, cover the next two 
centuries. 

The sixth book of the saga, Preiude to Foundation, returns 
to a period fifty years before the opening of Foundation, and 
investigates the youth of Hari Seldon and the beginnings of 
psychohistory. 

In the seventh book, now being written, the fifty-year period 
between Prelude to Foundation and Foundation is taken up. 
Hari Seldon ages and psychohistory matures. What follows 
is Part I of the new book. Forward the Foundation. There will 
be four more parts (if I can manage it). 




DEMERZEL, ETO — . . . While there is no question that Demerzel 
was the real power in the government during much of the reign 
of the Emperor Cleon II, historians are divided as to the nature of 
his rule. The classic interpretation is that he was another in the 
long line of strong and ruthless oppressors in the last century of 
the undivided Galactic Empire, but there are revisionist views that 
have surfaced and that insist his was, if a despotism, a benevolent 
one. Much is made, in this view, of his relationship with Hari 
Seldon, though that remains forever uncertain, particularly during 
the bizarre episode of Laskin Joranum, whose meteoric rise — 

Encyclopedia Galactica* 


“I tell you again, Hari,” said Y ugo Amaryl, “that your friend, Demerzel, 
is in deep trouble.” He emphasized the word friend very lightly and with 
an unmistakable air of distaste. 

Hari Seldon heard the distaste and ignored it. He looked up from his 
tri-computer and said, “I tell you again, Yugo, that that’s nonsense.” And 
then, with a trace of annoyance, just a trace, he added, “Why are you 
taking up my time by insisting?” 

“Because I think it’s important.” Amaryl sat down defiantly. It was 
a gesture that indicated he was not going to be moved easily. Here he 
was and here he would stay. 

Eight years before, he had been a heat-sinker in Dahl, as low on the 
social scale as it was possible to be. He had been lifted out of that position 
by Seldon, made into a mathematician and intellectual — more than that, 
into a psychohistorian. 

Never for one minute did he forget what he had been and who he was 
now, and to what and to whom he owed the change. That meant that if 
he had to speak harshly to Hari Seldon — for Seldon’s own good — no con- 
sideration of respect and love for the older man, no regard for his own 
career, would stop him. He owed such harshness, and much more, to 
Seldon. 

“Look, Hari,” he said, chopping at the air with this left hand, “for some 
reason that passes my understanding, you think highly of this Demerzel, 
but I don’t. No one whose opinion I respect, except you, thinks well of 
him. I don’t care what happens to him personally, Hari, but as long as 
I think you do, I have no choice but to bring this to your attention.” 

Seldon smiled, as much at the other’s earnestness as at what he con- 
sidered to be the uselessness of his concern. He was fond of Yugo Amaryl, 
more than fond. Yugo was one of the four people he had encountered 
during that short period of his life when he was in flight across the face 
of the planet Trantor — Eto Demerzel, Dors Venabili, Yugo Amaryl, and 


‘All quotations from the Encyclopedia Galactica here reproduced are taken from the 
116th Edition, published 1020 f.e. by the Encyclopedia Galactica Publishing Co., Ter- 
minus, with the permission of the publishers. 

20 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


Raich — four the like of whom he had not found since and didn’t expect 
to. 

In a particular and, in each case, different way, these four were in- 
dispensable to him — Yugo Amaryl, because of his quick understanding 
of the principles of psychohistory and his imaginative probings into new 
areas. It was comforting to know that if anything happened to Seldon 
himself before the mathematics of the field could be completely worked 
out — and how slowly it proceeded, and how mountainous the obstacles 
— there would at least remain one good mind that would continue the 
research. 

He said, “I’m sorry, Yugo. I don’t mean to show any impatience with 
you, or to be rejecting whatever it is you are anxious to make me un- 
derstand. It’s just this job of mine; it’s this business of being a department 
head—” 

Amaryl found it his turn to smile and he repressed a slight chuckle. 
“I’m sorry, Hari, and I shouldn’t laugh, but you have no natural aptitude 
for the position.” 

“As well I know, but I’ll have to learn. I have to seem to be doing 
something harmless and there is nothing, nothing more harmless than 
being the Head of the Department of Mathematics at Streeling Univer- 
sity. I can fill my day with unimportant tasks, so that no one need know 
or ask about the course of our psychohistorical research, but the trouble 
is I do fill my day with unimportant tasks, and I have insufficient time 
to — ” His eyes glanced about his office, at the material stored in com- 
puters to which only he and Amaryl had the key and which, even if 
anyone else stumbled upon it, had been carefully phrased in an invented 
symbology that no one else would understand. 

Amaryl said, “Once you work your way into your duties, you’ll begin 
to delegate and then you’ll have more time.” 

“I hope so,” said Seldon dubiously. “But, tell me, what is this about 
Eto Demerzel that you want to tell me.” 

“Simply that Eto Demerzel, our great Emperor’s First Minister, is 
busily creating an insurrection.” 

Seldon frowned. “Why would he want to do that?” 

“I didn’t say he wants to. He’s simply doing it, and he’s being helped 
by some of his political enemies. That’s all right with me, you understand. 
I think, that under ideal conditions, it would be a good thing to have 
him out of the Palace, ofTTrantor and beyond the Empire for that matter. 
But you think highly of him, as I’ve said, and so I’m warning you, because 
I suspect that you are not following the recent political course of events.” 

“There are more important things to do,” said Seldon mildly. 

“Like psychohistory. I agree. But how are we going to develop psy- 
chohistory with any hope of success if we remain ignorant of politics? I 
mean, present-day politics. Now, now, is the time when the present is 
turning into the future. We can’t just study the past. We know what 
happened in the past. It’s against the present and the near future that 
we can check our results.” 


FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


21 


“It seems to me,” said Seldon, “that I have heard this argument before.” 

“And you’ll hear it again. It doesn’t seem to do me any good to explain 
this to you.” 

Seldon sighed, sat back in his chair, and regarded Amaryl with a smile. 
The younger man could be abrasive but he took psychohistory seriously, 
and that repaid all. 

Amaryl still had the mark of his early years as a heat-sinker. He had 
the broad shoulders and the muscular build of one who had been used 
to hard physical labor. He had never allowed his body to turn flabby and 
that was a good thing, for it had given Seldon himself reason to do the 
same against the impulse to spend all his time at the desk. He did not 
have Amaryl’s sheer physical strength, but he still had his own talents 
as a 'Twister — for all that he had just turned forty and could not keep it 
up forever. 

He said, “This concern for Demerzel cannot be purely a matter of his 
being a friend of mine. You have some other motive. Tell me.” 

“There’s no puzzle to that. As long as you’re a friend of Demerzel, your 
position here at the University is secure and you can continue to work 
on psychohistorical research.” 

“There you are. So I have reason to be friends with him. It doesn’t pass 
your understanding at all.” 

“You have an interest in cultivating him. That I understand. But as 
for friendship — that I don’t understand. However — if Demerzel lost 
power, quite apart from the effect it might have on your position, then 
Cleon himself would be running the Empire and the rate of its decline 
would increase. Anarchy may then be upon us before we have worked 
out all the implications of psychohistory and made it possible for the 
science to save all humanity.” 

“I see. — But, you know, I honestly don’t think that we’re going to work 
out psychohistory in time to prevent the fall of the Empire.” 

“Even if we could not prevent the fall, we could cushion the effects, 
couldn’t we?” 

“Perhaps.” 

“There you are, then. The longer we have to work in peace the greater 
the chance we will have to prevent the fall, or, at least, ameliorate the 
effects. Since that is the case, working backward, it may be necessary 
to save Demerzel, whether we — or at least, I — like it or not.” 

“Yet you just said that you would like to see him out of the Palace and 
away from Trantor and beyond the Empire.” 

“Yes, under ideal conditions, 1 said. But we are not living under ideal 
conditions, and we need our First Minister, even if he is an instrument 
of repression and despotism.” 

“I see. But why do you think the Empire is so close to dissolution that 
the loss of a First Minister will bring it a’oout?” 

“Psychohistory.” 

“Are you using it for predictions? We haven’t even gotten the frame- 
work in place. What predictions can you make?” 

22 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


“There’s intuition, Hari.” 

“There’s always been intuition. We want something more, don’t we? 
We want a mathematical treatment that will give us probabilities of 
specific future developments under this condition or that. If intuition 
suffices to guide us, we don’t need psychohistory at all.” 

“It’s not necessarily a matter of one or the other, Hari. I’m talking 
about both. The combination, which may be better than either — at least 
until psychohistory is perfected.” 

“If ever,” said Seldon. “But tell me, where does this danger to Demerzel 
arise? What is it that is likely to harm him or overthrow him? Are we 
talking overthrow?” 

“Yes,” said Amaryl, grimly. 

“Then tell me. Have pity on my ignorance.” 

Amaryl flushed. “You’re being condescending, Hari. Surely, you’ve 
heard of Jojo Joranum.” 

“Certainly. He’s a demagogue — Wait, what’s his sector? Nishaya, 
right? A very unimportant sector. Goat-herding, I think. High-quality 
cheeses.” 

“You have it. Not just a demagogue, however. He commands a strong 
following, and it’s getting stronger. He aims, he says, for social justice 
and greater political involvement by the people.” 

“Yes,” said Seldon. “I’ve heard that much. His slogan is ‘Government 
belongs to the people.’ ” 

“Not quite, Hari. He says ‘Government is the people.’ ” 

Seldon nodded. “Well, you know, I rather sympathize with the 
thought.” 

“So do I. I’m all for it — if Joranum meant it. But he doesn’t, except as 
a stepping stone. It’s a path, not a goal. He wants to get rid of Demerzel. 
After that, it will be easy to manipulate Emperor Cleon. After that, 
Joranum will take the throne himself and he will be the people. You 
know very well there have been a number of episodes of this sort in 
Imperial history, and these days the Empire is weaker and less stable 
than it used to be. A blow which, in earlier centuries, merely staggered 
it, might now shatter it. It will welter in civil war and never recover and 
we won’t have psychohistory in place to teach us what must be done.” 

“Yes, I see your point, but surely it’s not going to be that easy to get 
rid of Demerzel.” 

“You don’t know how strong Joranum is growing.” 

“It doesn’t matter how strong he’s growing.” A shadow of thought 
seemed to pass over Seldon’s brow. “I wonder that his parents came to 
name him Jojo. There’s something juvenile about it.” 

“His parents had nothing to do with it. His real name is Laskin, a very 
common name in Nishaya. He chose Jojo himself, presumably from the 
first syllable of his last name.” 

“The more fool, he, wouldn’t you say?” 

“No, I wouldn’t. They shout it: Jo — jo — jo — jo, over and over. It’s hyp- 
notic.” 


FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


23 


“Well,” said Seldon, making a move to return to his tri-computer and 
adjust the multidimensional simulation it had created, “we’ll see what 
happens.” 

“Can you be that casual about it? I tell you the danger is imminent.” 

“No, it isn’t,” said Seldon, his voice suddenly hardening. “You don’t 
have all the facts.” 

“What facts don’t I have?” 

“We’ll discuss that another time, Yugo. For now, continue with your 
work and let me worry about Demerzel and the state of the Empire. 
Yes?” 

Amaryl’s lips tightened, but the habit of obedience to Seldon was 
strong. “Yes, Hari.” 

But not overwhelmingly strong. He turned at the door and said, “You’re 
making a mistake, Hari.” 

Seldon smiled slightly. “I don’t think so, but I have heard your warning 
and I will not forget. Still, all will be well.” 

And as Amaryl left, Seldon’s smile faded. — Would, indeed, all be well? 


2 . 

But Seldon, while he did not forget Amaryl’s warning, did not think 
of it with any great degree of concentration. His fortieth birthday came 
and went, with the usual psychological blow. 

Forty! He was not young any longer. Life no longer stretched before 
him as a vast uncharted field, its horizon lost in the distance. He had 
been on Trantor for eight years, and the time had passed quickly. Another 
eight years and he would be nearly fifty. Old age would be looming. 

And he had not even made a decent beginning in psychohistory. Yugo 
Amaryl spoke brightly of laws, and worked out his equations by making 
daring assumptions based on intuition. How could one possibly test those 
assumptions? Psychohistory was not an experimental science, or at least 
the proper experiments would take worlds of people, centuries of time, 
and would involve a total lack of ethical responsibility. 

It was an impossible problem, and he resented having to spend any 
time whatever on departmental problems, so he walked home at the end 
of the day in a morose mood. 

Ordinarily, he could always count on the campus to rouse his spirits. 
It was high-domed and it gave the feeling of being out in the open without 
the necessity of enduring the kind of weather he had experienced on his 
one (and only) visit to the Imperial Palace. There were trees, lawns, 
walks, almost as though he were on the campus of his home college in 
Helicon. 

The illusion of cloudiness had been arranged for the day with the 
Sunlight (no Sun, of course, just Sunlight) appearing and disappearing 
at odd intervals. And it was a little cool, just a little. 

It seemed to Seldon that the cool days came a little more frequently 

24 ISAAC ASIMOV 


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than they used to. Was Trantor saving energy? Was it increasing inef- 
ficiency? Or (and he scowled inwardly as he thought it) was he getting 
old and was his blood getting thin? He placed his hands in his jacket 
pockets and hunched up his shoulders. 

Usually, he did not bother guiding himself consciously. His body knew 
the way perfectly from his offices to his computer-room and from there 
to his apartment and back. Generally, he negotiated the path with his 
thoughts elsewhere, but this time a sound penetrated his consciousness. 
A sound without meaning. 

“Jo — jo— jo — jo — ” 

It was rather soft and distant but it brought back a memory. Yes, 
Amaryl’s warning. The demagogue. Was he here on campus? 

His legs swerved without his making a conscious decision and brought 
him over the low rise to the Field, which doubled for calisthenics, sports, 
and student oratory. 

There was a crowd of moderate size there and it seemed enthusiastic. 
On a platform was someone he didn’t recognize, someone with a loud 
voice and a swaying rhythm. 

It wasn’t this man, Joranum, however. He had seen Joranum on ho- 
lovision a number of times, and since Amaryl’s warning, Seldon had 
watched him closely. Joranum was large, and smiled with a kind of 
vicious camaraderie. He had thick, sandy hair and light blue eyes. 

The speaker was small, if anything, thin, wide-mouthed, dark-haired 
and loud. Seldon wasn’t listening to the words, though he did hear the 
phrase “ — ^power from the one to the many — ” and the many -headed shout 
in response. 

Fine, thought Seldon, but how does he intend to bring that about, and 
is he serious? 

He was at the outskirts of the crowd now and looked about for someone 
he knew. There was Finangelos, a pre-math undergraduate. Not a bad 
young man, dark and woolly-haired. 

“Finangelos,” he called out. 

“Professor Seldon,” said Finangelos, after a moment of staring as 
though unable to recognize Seldon without a keyboard at his fingertips. 
He trotted over. “Did you come to listen to this guy?” 

“I didn’t come for any purpose but to find out what the noise was. Who 
is he?” 

“His name is Namarti, Professor. He’s speaking for Jojo.” 

“I hear thxit” said Seldon, as he listened to the chant again. It began 
each time the speaker made a telling point, apparently. “But who is this 
Namarti? I don’t recognize the name. What school is he in? What’s his 
department?” 

“He’s not a member of the school. Professor. He’s one of Jojo’s men.” 

“If he’s not a member of the University, he has no right to speak here 
without a permit. Does he have one, do you suppose?” 

“I wouldn’t know. Professor.” 

“Well, then, let’s find out.” 


26 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


Seldon started into the crowd but Finangelos caught his sleeve. “Don’t 
start anything, Professor. He’s got goons with him.” 

There were six young men behind the speaker, spaced rather widely, 
legs apart, arms folded, scowling. 

“Goons?” 

“For rough stuff, in case anyone tries anything funny.” 

“Then he’s certainly not a member of the University and even a permit 
wouldn’t cover what you call his goons. — You, Finangelos, signal 
through to the Campus police. They should have been here by now with- 
out a signal.” 

“I guess they don’t want trouble,” muttered Finangelos. “Please, Pro- 
fessor, don’t try anything. If you want me to get the CP’s, I will, but you 
just wait till they come.” 

“Maybe I can break this up before they come.” 

He began pushing his way through. It wasn’t difficult. Some of those 
present recognized him, and all could see the professorial shoulder patch. 
He reached the platform, placed his hands on it, and vaulted up the three 
feet with a small grunt. He thought, with chagrin, that he could have 
done it with one hand ten years before, and not have grunted either. 

He straightened up. The speaker had stopped talking and was looking 
at him with wary and ice-hard eyes. 

Seldon said, calmly, “Your permit to address the students, sir?” 

“Who are you?” said the speaker. He said it loudly, his voice carrying. 

“I’m a member of the faculty of this University,” said Seldon, equally 
loudly. “Your permit, sir?” 

“I deny your right to question me on the matter.” The young men with 
the speaker had gathered closer. 

“If you have none, I would advise you to leave the University grounds 
immediately.” 

“And if I don’t?” 

“Well, for one thing, the Campus police are on their way.” He turned 
to the crowd. “Students,” he called out, “we have the right of free speech 
and freedom of assembly on this campus, but it can be taken away from 
us if we allow outsiders, without permits, to make unauthorized — ” 

A heavy hand fell on his shoulder and he winced. He turned about and 
found it was one of the men Finangelos had referred to as “goons.” 

The man said, with a heavy accent whose provenance Seldon could not 
immediately identify, “You get away from here, fast.” 

“What good will that do?” said Seldon. “The Campus police will be 
here any minute.” 

“In that case,” said the speaker, Namarti, with a feral grin, “there’ll 
be a riot. That doesn’t scare us.” 

“Of course, it wouldn’t,” said Sheldon, “you’d like it, but there won’t 
be a riot. You’ll all go quietly.” He turned again to the students, and 
shrugged off the hand on his shoulder. “We’ll see to that, won’t we?” 

Someone in the crowd shouted. “That’s Professor Seldon. He’s all right. 
Don’t pound him.” 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


27 


Seldon sensed there was ambivalence in the crowd. There would be 
some, he knew, who would welcome a dust-up with the Campus police 
just on general principles. On the other hand, there had to be some who 
liked him personally and others who did not know him but who would 
not want to see violence offered a member of the faculty. 

A woman’s voice rang out. There were women in the crowd, too, Seldon 
had noticed. “Watch out. Professor,” she cried. 

Seldon sighed. He liked to think of himself as in shape. He had kept 
up his Heliconian exercises, and there wasn’t an ounce of flab on him, 
but he was forty and these were large young men he faced. 

He didn’t know if he could do it, if his reflexes were quick enough, his 
muscles sturdy enough. 

One goon was approaching him, overconfidently, of course. Not quickly, 
which gave Seldon a little of the time his aging body would need. The 
goon held out his arm confrontationally, which made it easier. 

Seldon seized the arm, whirled, and bent, arm up, and then down (with 
a grunt — why did he have to grunt?) and the goon went flying through 
the air, propelled partly by his own momentum. He landed with a thump 
on the outer edge of the platform, shoulder dislocated. 

There was a wild cry from the audience at what was to them a totally 
unexpected development. Instantly, an institutional pride erupted. 

“Take them, prof,” shouted a voice. Others took up the cry. 

Seldon faced Namarti, smoothing back his hair and trying not to puff. 
With his foot, he shoved the fallen goon (groaning) off the platform. 

“Anyone else?” he asked, pleasantly, “or will you leave quietly?” 

He faced Namarti and his five henchmen and as they paused irreso- 
lutely, Seldon said, “I warn you. The crowd is on my side now. If you try 
to rush me, they’ll take you apart. — Come at me one at a time.” 

He had raised his voice with the last sentence, and made small come- 
hither motions with his fingers. The crowd yelled its pleasure. 

The speaker stood there stolidly. Seldon leaped past him and caught 
his neck in the crook of his arm. Students were climbing on to the plat- 
form now, shouting, “One at a time. One at a time,” and getting between 
the bodyguards and Seldon. 

Seldon increased the pressure on the other’s windpipe and whispered 
in his ear, “There’s a way to do this, Namarti, and I know how. I’ve 
practiced it for years. If you make a move and try to break away. I’ll 
ruin your larynx so that you’ll never talk above a whisper again. If you 
value your voice, do as I say. When I let up, you tell your bunch of bullies 
to leave. If you say anything else, they’re the last words you’ll say nor- 
mally. And if you ever come back to this campus, I will no longer be Mr. 
(jrentle. I’ll kill you.” 

He released the pressure momentarily. Namarti said huskily, “All of 
you. Get out.” They retreated rapidly, helping their stricken comrade. 

When the Campus police arrived a few moments later, Seldon said, 
“Sorry, gentlemen, it was something in the nature of a false alarm.” 

He left the Field and resumed his walk home with more than a little 


28 


ISAAC ASIMOV 



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chagrin. He had revealed a side of himself he did not want to reveal. He 
was Hari Seldon, mathematician, not Hari Seldon, sadistic Twister. 

Besides, he thought gloomily. Dors would hear of this. In fact, he’d 
better tell her himself lest she hear it worse than it was. 

And she would not be pleased. 


3 . 

She wasn’t. 

She was waiting at the door of their apartment when he returned; with 
an easy stance, hand on one hip, looking very much as she had when he 
had first met her at this very University eight years before. Slim, well- 
built, reddish-gold hair, very beautiful in his eyes, but not very beautiful 
in any objective sense — though he had never been able to approach her 
objectively after the first few days of their friendship. 

Dors Venabili! That’s what he thought when he saw her calm face. 
There were many worlds, even many sectors on Trantor where it would 
have been common to call her Dors Seldon, but that, he always thought, 
would put the mark of ownership on her, and he did not wish it even 
though the custom was sanctioned by existence back into the vague mists 
of the pre-imperial past. 

Dors said softly and with a sad shake of her head that didn’t disturb 
the curls of hair that covered her scalp neatly, “I’ve heard, Hari. What 
am I going to do with you?” 

“A kiss would not be amiss.” 

“Well, perhaps, but only after we probe this a little. Come in.” The 
door closed behind them. “You know, dear, I have my course and my 
research. I’m still doing that dreadful history of the Kingdom of Trantor, 
which you tell me is essential to your own work. Shall I drop it all and 
take to wandering about with you, protecting you? It’s still my job, you 
know. It’s more than ever my job now that you’re making progress on 
psychohistory.” 

“Making progress? I wish I were. But you needn’t protect me.” 

“Needn’t I? I sent Raich out looking for you. After all, you were late 
and I was concerned. You usually tell me when you’re going to be late. 
I’m sorry if that makes me sound as though I’m your keeper, Hari, but 
I am your keeper.” 

“Does it occur to you. Keeper Dors, that every once in a while, I like 
to slip my leash?” 

“And if something happens to you, what do I tell Demerzel?” 

“Am I too late for dinner? Have we clicked for kitchen service?” 

“No. I was waiting for you. And as long as you’re here, you click it. 
You’re a great deal pickier than I am when it comes to food. And don’t 
change the subject.” 

“Didn’t Raich report and tell you I was all right? And since that is so, 
what’s there to talk about?” 

30 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


“When he found you, you were in control of the situation and he beat 
you back to me, but not by much. I have no details. Tell me — What 
— were — you — doing?” 

Seldon shrugged. “There was an illegal gathering. Dors, and I broke 
it up. See here. The University could have gotten a good deal of trouble 
it didn’t need if I hadn’t.” 

“And it was up to you to prevent it? Hari, you’re not a Twister anymore. 
You’re an — ” 

He put in hastily, “An old man?” 

“For a Twister, yes. You’re forty. How do you feel?” 

“Well— A little stiff.” 

“I can well imagine. And one of these days, when you try to pretend 
you’re a young Heliconian athlete, you’ll break a rib. — Now tell me 
about it.” 

“I did tell you. Amaryl warned me that Demerzel was in trouble be- 
cause of the demagoguery of Joranum. I told you that.” 

“Jo-jo. Yes, I know that much. What don’t I know? What happened 
today?” 

“There was a rally in the Field. A Jo-jo partisan, named Namarti, was 
addressing the crowd — ” 

“Namarti is Gambol Been Namarti, Joranum’s right-hand man.” 

“Well, you know more about it than I do. In any case, he was addressing 
a large crowd and he had no permit and I think he was hoping there 
would be some sort of disturbance or riot. They feed on these disorders, 
and if he could close down the University even temporarily, he would 
charge Demerzel with the destruction of academic freedom. I gather they 
blame him for everything. So I stopped them. — Sent them off without 
a riot.” 

“You sound proud.” 

“Why not? Not bad for a man of forty.” 

“Is that why you did it? To test your status at forty?” 

Thoughtfully, Seldon clicked the dinner menu. Then he said, “No. I 
really was concerned that the University would get into needless trouble. 
And I was concerned about Demerzel. I’m afraid that Yugo’s tales of 
danger had impressed me more than I realized. That was stupid. Dors, 
because I know that Demerzel can take care of himself I couldn’t explain 
that to Yugo, or to anyone but you.” 

He drew in a deep breath. “It’s amazing what a pleasure it is that I 
can at least talk to you about it. You know and I know and Demerzel 
knows and no one else knows — at least that 1 know of — that Demerzel 
is untouchable.” 

The dinner began to arrive — there was never any long delay at this 
time of evening — and Seldon accepted it quite casually. He had long since 
grown accustomed to the social position that made it unnecessary for 
them to patronize the community diners. 

Seldon savored the seasonings they had learned to like during their 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 31 


stay at Mycogen — the only thing about that strange, male-dominated, 
religion-permeated, living-in-the-past Sector they had not detested. 

Dors said softly, “How do you mean, ‘untouchable’?” 

“Come, dear, he can alter emotions. You haven’t forgotten that. If 
Joranum really became dangerous, he could be,” he made a vague gesture 
with his hands, “altered; made to change his mind.” 

Dors looked uncomfortable and the meal proceeded in an unusual si- 
lence. It wasn’t until it was over and the remains, dishes, cutlery, and 
all, swirled down the disposal chute (which then smoothly covered itself 
over) that she said, “I’m not sure I want to talk about this, Hari, but I 
can’t let you be fooled by your own innocence.” 

“Innocence?” He frowned. 

“Yes. We’ve never talked about this. I never thought it would come 
up, but Demerzel has shortcomings. He is not untouchable, he may be 
harmed, and Joranum is indeed a danger to him.” 

“Are you serious?” 

“Of course I am. You don’t understand robots — certainly not one as 
complex as Demerzel. And I do.” 


4. 

There was a short time of silence again, but only because thoughts are 
silent. Seldon’s were tumultuous enough. 

His life with Dors Venabili was a happy one but it was so at a cost, 
at a condition. The condition was all the more stringent in that it had 
been settled, not through discussion or agreement, but by a mutual un- 
spoken understanding. 

Seldon understood that he found in Dors everything he would have 
wanted in a wife. True, he had no children, but he had neither expected 
any, nor, to tell the truth, had greatly wanted any. He had Raich, who 
was as much a son of his emotionally as if he had inherited the entire 
Seldonian genome — perhaps more so. 

It was therefore not proper for Seldon to hint at the fact that he had 
almost from the start-^ertainly from the day of the knife-fight in Bil- 
libotton — accepted Dors as a robot, one who was, like Demerzel himself, 
in all ways indistinguishable from a human being, unless one were to 
consider that she had all the virtues of humanity in greater than the 
usual amount. 

He had watched her calmly eating her dinner. How could anyone eat 
like that and not be human? He knew of her other biological functions 
and they showed no signs of anything but humanity. 

She had never in all their life together admitted outright that she was 
a robot. Nor had she ever denied it outright. It had gotten to the point 
where he no longer thought of it. He had started off in the beginning by 
telling her, as earnestly as he knew how, that it didn’t matter. — And 
it didn’t. He had never tried to decide whether she was one or not; had 

32 ISAAC ASIMOV 


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looked for no evidence; had tried to find no proofs; had done his best to 
dismiss the matter from his mind. 

But now she had said — what she had said. She had remarked on her 
own superior knowledge of robots and was that not an actual admission 
after eight years of silence? 

The mere fact that she was causing him to think about the matter was 
breaking the agreement that had kept them in peace and comfort all 
these years, and he felt a faint, but growing, resentment at that. 

“I said — Are you sulking, Hari?” 

He started slightly, for there was the sound of repetition in her voice, 
and he realized he had been shrinking steadily deeper into his mind and 
away from her. 

“I’m sorry, dear. I’m not sulking. — Not deliberately sulking. I’m just 
wondering how I ought to respond to your statement.” 

“About robots?” She seemed quite calm as she said the word. 

“You said I don’t know as much about them as you do. How do I respond 
to that?” He paused, then added quietly (knowing he was taking a 
chance), “That is, without offense.” 

“I didn’t say you didn’t know about robots. If you’re going to quote me, 
do so with precision. I said you didn’t understand about robots. I’m sure 
that you know a great deal, perhaps more than I do, but to know is not 
necessarily to understand.” 

“Now, Dors, you’re deliberately speaking in paradoxes to be annoying. 
A' paradox arises only out of an ambiguity that deceives either unwit- 
tingly or by design. I don’t like that in science and I don’t like it in casual 
conversation either, unless it is meant humorously, which I think is not 
the case, now.” 

Dors laughed in her particular way, softly, almost as though amuse- 
ment were too precious to be shared in an over-liberal manner. “Appar- 
ently, the paradox has annoyed you into pomposity, and you are always 
humorous when you are pompous. However, I’ll explain. It’s not my 
intention to annoy you.” She reached over to pat his hand, and it was 
to Seldon’s surprise (and slight embarrassment) that he found that it 
had clenched itself into a fist. 

Dors said, “You talk about psychohistory a great deal. To me, at any 
rate. You know that?” 

Seldon cleared his throat. “I throw myself on your mercy as far as 
that’s concerned. The project is secret, by its very nature. Psychohistory 
won’t work unless the people it affects know nothing about it, so I can 
talk about it only to Yugo and to you. To Yugo, it is all intuition. He’s 
brilliant, but he is so apt to leap wildly into darkness that I must play 
the role of caution, of forever pulling him back. But I have my wild 
thoughts, too, and it helps me to be able to hear them aloud, even” (and 
he smiled here), “when I have a pretty good notion you don’t understand 
a word I’m saying.” 

“I know I’m a sounding board, and I don’t mind. — I really don’t mind, 
Hari, so don’t begin making inner resolutions to change your behavior. 

34 ISAAC ASIMOV 


Naturally, I don’t understand your mathematics. I’m just a historian, 
and not even a historian of science. The influence of economic change on 
political development is what is taking up my time now — ” 

“Yes, and I’m your sounding board on that, or hadn’t you noticed? I’ll 
need it for psychohistory when the time comes, so I suspect you’ll be an' 
indispensable help to me.” 

“Good! Now that we’ve settled why it is you stay with me — I knew it 
couldn’t be for my ethereal beauty — let me go on to explain that occa- 
sionally, when your discussion veers away from the strictly mathemat- 
ical, it seems to me I get your drift. You have on a number of occasions 
explained what you call the necessity of minimalism. I think I understand 
that. By it, you mean — ” 

“I know what I mean.” 

Dors looked hurt. “Less lofty, please, Hari. I’m not trying to explain 
it to you. I want to explain it to myself You say you’re my sounding 
board, so act like one. Turnabout is fair, isn’t it?” 

“Turnabout is fine, but if you’re going to accuse me of loftiness when 
I say one little — ” 

“Enough! Shut up! — You have told me that minimalism is of the 
highest importance in applied psychohistory; in the art of attempting to 
change an undesired development into a desired one or, at any rate, a 
less undesired one. You have said that a change must be applied that 
is as minute, as minimal, as possible — ” 

“Yes,” said Seldon, eagerly, “that is because — ” 

“No, Hari. I’m trying to explain. We both know that you understand 
it. You must have minimalism because every change, any change, has 
a myriad side-effects that can’t always be allowed for. If the change is 
too great and the side-effects too many, then it becomes certain that the 
outcome will be far removed from anything you’ve planned, and that it 
would be entirely unpredictable.” 

“Right,” said Seldon. “That’s the essence of a chaotic effect. The prob- 
lem is whether any change is small enough to make the consequence 
reasonably predictable, or whether human history is inevitably and un- 
alterably chaotic in every respect. It was that which, at the start, made 
me think that psychohistory was not — ” 

“I know, but you’re not letting me make my point. Whether any change 
would be small enough is not the issue. The point is that any change 
greater than the minimal is chaotic. The required minimum may be zero, 
but, if it is not zero, then it is still very small, and it would be a major 
problem to find some change that is small enough and yet is significantly 
greater than zero. Now that, I gather, is what you mean by the necessity 
of minimalism.” 

“More or less,” said Seldon. “Of course, as always, the matter is ex- 
pressed more compactly and more rigorously in the language of math- 
ematics. See here — ” 

“Save me,” said Dors. “Since you know this about psychohistory, Hari, 
you ought to know it about Demerzel, too. You have the knowledge, but 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 35 


not the understanding, because it apparently doesn’t occur to you to apply 
the rules of psychohistory to the laws of robotics.” 

To which Seldon replied faintly, “Now I don’t see what you’re getting 
at.” 

“He requires minimality, too, doesn’t he, Hari? By the First Law of 
Robotics, a robot can’t harm a human being. That is the prime rule for 
the usual robot, but Demerzel is something quite unusual and for him, 
the Zeroth Law is a reality and it takes precedence even over the First 
law. The Zeroth law states that a robot can’t harm humanity as a whole. 
But that puts Demerzel into the same bind you exist in when you labor 
at psychohistory. Do you see?” 

“I’m beginning to.” 

“I hope so. If Demerzel has the ability to change minds, he has to do 
so without bringing about side-effects he does not wish, and since he is 
the Emperor’s First Minister, the side-effects he must worry about are 
numerous indeed.” 

“And the application to the present case.” 

“Think about it! You can’t tell anyone, except me, of course, that De- 
merzel is a robot, because he has adjusted you so that you can’t. But how 
much adjustment did that take? Do you want to tell people that he is a 
robot? Do you want to ruin his effectiveness, when you depend on him 
for protection, for support of your grants, for influence quietly exerted 
on your behalf? Of course not. The change he had to make then was a 
very tiny one, just enough to keep you from blurting it out in a moment 
of excitement or carelessness. It is so small a change that there are no 
particular side-effects. That is how Demerzel tries to run the Empire 
generally.” 

“And the case of Joranum?” 

“Is obviously completely different from yours. He is, for whatever mo- 
tives, unalterably opposed to Demerzel. Undoubtedly, Demerzel could 
change that, but it would be at the price of introducing a considerable 
wrench in Joranum’s makeup which would bring about results Demerzel 
could not predict. Rather than take the chance of harming Joranum, of 
producing side-effects that would harm others and, possibly, all of hu- 
manity, he must leave Joranum alone until he can find some small 
change, some small change that will save the situation without harm. 
That is why Yugo is right and why Demerzel is vulnerable.” 

Seldon had listened, but did not respond. He seemed lost in thought. 
Minutes passed before he said, “If Demerzel can do nothing in this matter, 
then I must.” 

“If he can do nothing, what can you do?” 

“The case is different. I am not bound by the Laws of Robotics. I need 
not concern myself obsessively with minimalism. — And to begin with, 
I must see him.” 

Dors looked faintly anxious. “Must you? Surely it wouldn’t be wise to 
advertise a connection between the two of you.” 

“We have reached a time where we can’t make a fetish of pretending 

36 ISAAC ASIMOV 


there is no connection. Naturally, I won’t go to see him behind a flourish 
of trumpets and an announcement on the holo-vision, but I must see 
him.” 


5. 

Seldon found himself raging at the passage of time. Eight years ago, 
when he had first arrived at Trantor, he could take instant action. He 
had only a hotel room and its contents to forsake and he could range 
across the sections of Trantor at will. 

Now he found himself with department meetings, with decisions to 
make, with work to do. It was not so easy to dash off at will to see 
Demerzel, and if he could, Demerzel also had his time taken up. To find 
a pair of openings in time that fit was not easy. 

Nor was it easy to have Dors shake her head at him. “I don’t know 
what you intend to do, Hari.” 

And he answered impatiently, “I don’t know what I intend to do, either. 
Dors. I hope to find out when I see Demerzel.” 

“Your first duty is to psychohistory. He’ll tell you so.” 

“Perhaps. I’ll find out.” 

And then just as he had fixed a time for the meeting at last, for eight 
days hence, he received a message on his department office wall screen 
in slightly archaic lettering. And to match that was the more than 
slightly archaic message, “I crave an audience with Professor Hari Sel- 
don.” 

Seldon stared at it with astonishment. Even the Emperor was not 
addressed in quite that centuries-old turn of phrase. 

Nor was the signature printed as it usually was for clarity. It was 
scripted with a flourish that left it perfectly legible and yet gave it the 
aura of a careless work of art dashed off by a master. The signature was 
“Laskin Joranum.” — It was JoJo himself, craving an audience. 

Seldon found himself chuckling. It was clear why the choice of words, 
and why the script. It made what was a simple request a device for 
stimulating curiosity. Seldon had no great desire to meet the man — or 
would have had none ordinarily. But what was worth the archaism and 
the artistry? He wanted to find out. 

He and his secretary set the time of the appointment and the place. 
It would be in his office, certainly not in his home. A business conver- 
sation, nothing social. 

And it would come before the projected meeting with Demerzel. 

Dors said, “It’s no surprise to me, Hari. You hurt two of his people, 
one of them his chief aide; you spoiled a little rally he was holding; and 
you made him, in the person of his representatives, seem foolish. He 
wants to take a look at you, and I think 1 had better be with you.” 

. Seldon shook his head. “I’ll take Raich. He knows all the tricks I know, 

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an 


and he’s a strong and active twenty. I’m sure there’ll be no need for 
protection.” 

“How can you be?” 

“He’s coming to see me on the University grounds. There will be any 
number of youngsters in the vicinity. I’m not exactly an unpopular figure 
with the student body, and I suspect that Joranum is the kind of man 
who does his homework and knows that I’ll be safe on home territory. 
I’m sure that he will be perfectly polite — completely friendly.” 

“Hmph,” said Dors, with a light twist of one comer of her lip. 

“And quite deadly,” Seldon finished. 


6 . 

Hari Seldon kept his face expressionless, and bent his head just suf- 
ficiently to allow a reasonable courtesy. He had taken the trouble to look 
up a variety of holographs of Joranum, but, as is often the case, the real 
thing, unguarded, shifting constantly in response to changing conditions, 
is never quite the same as a holograph, however carefully prepared. 
Perhaps, thought Seldon, it is the response of the viewer to the “real 
thing” that makes it different. 

Joranum was a tall man, as tall as Seldon at any rate, but larger in 
other directions. It was not the size of muscle, for he gave the impression 
of softness, without quite being fat. A rounded face, a thick head of hair 
that was sandy rather than yellow, light blue eyes. He wore a subdued 
coverall, and his face bore a half-smile that seemed to give the illusion 
of friendliness, while making it clear, somehow, that it was only an 
illusion. 

“Professor Seldon,” his voice was deep and under strict control, an 
orator’s voice. “I am delighted to meet you. It is kind of you to permit 
this meeting. I trust you are not offended that I have brought a com- 
panion, one of my right-hand men, with me, although I have not cleared 
that with you in advance. He is Gambol Been Namarti — three names 
you notice. I believe you have met him.” 

“Yes, I have. I remember the matter well.” Seldon looked at Namarti 
with a touch of the sardonic. Namarti had been speaking in the Uni- 
versity Field, and Seldon viewed him carefully now, under relaxed con- 
ditions. He was of moderate height, with a thin face, sallow complexion, 
dark hair, and wide mouth. He did not have a half-smile or any expression 
except one of cautious wariness. 

“My friend. Dr. Namarti — his degree is in ancient literature — has come 
at his own request,” said Joranum, his smile intensifying a hair, “to 
apologize.” 

He glanced quickly at Namarti, and Namarti, his lips tightening just 
at first, said in a colorless voice, “I am sorry. Professor, at what happened 
on the Field. I was not quite aware of the strict rules governing Uni- 
versity rallies, and I was a little carried away by my own enthusiasm.” 

40 ISAAC ASIMOV 


“Understandably so,” said Joranum. “Nor was he entirely aware of 
your identity. I think we may now forget the little incident.” 

“I assure you, gentlemen,” said Seldon, “that I have no great desire 
to remember it. This is my son, Raich Seldon, so you see I have a com- 
panion, too.” 

Raich had the mustache, black and abundant, that was the masculine 
mark of the Dahlite. He had had none when he first met Seldon eight 
years before, when he was a street-boy, ragged and hungry. He was short, 
but lithe and sinewy, and his expression was the haughty one he had 
adopted in order to add a spiritual few inches to his physical height. 

“Good morning, young man,” said Joranum. 

“Good morning, sir,” said Raich. 

“Please sit down, gentlemen,” said Seldon. “May I offer you something 
to eat or drink?” 

Joranum held up his hands in polite refusal. “No, sir. This is not a 
social call.” He seated himself in the place indicated. “Though I hope 
there will be many of that kind in the future.” 

“If this is to be about business, then, let’s begin.” 

“The news reached me. Professor Seldon, of the little incident that you 
had so kindly agreed to forget, and I wondered why you took the chance 
of doing what you did. It was a risk, you will admit.” 

“I didn’t think so, actually.” 

“But I did. So I took the liberty of finding out everything I could about 
you. Professor Seldon. You’re an interesting man. From Helicon, I dis- 
covered.” 

“Yes, that’s where I was born. The records are clear.” 

“And you’ve been here on Trantor for eight years.” 

“That is also a matter of public record.” 

“And you made yourself quite famous at the start by delivering a 
mathematical paper on — what do you call it? — psychohistory.” 

Seldon shook his head very slightly. How often he had regretted that 
indiscretion. Of course, he had no idea at the time that it was an indis- 
cretion. He said, “A youthful enthusiasm. It came to nothing.” 

“Is that so?” Joranum looked about him with an air of pleased surprise. 
“Yet here you are, the head of the mathematics department at one of 
Trantor’s greater universities, and only forty years old, I believe. — I’m 
forty-two, by the way, so I don’t look upon you as very old at all. You 
must be a very competent mathematician to be in this position.” 

Seldon shrugged. “I wouldn’t care to make a judgment in that matter.” 

“Or you must have powerful friends.” 

“We would all like to have powerful friends, Mr. Joranum, but I think 
you will find none in here. University professors rarely have powerful 
friends, or, I sometimes think, friends of any kind.” He smiled. 

And so did Joranum. “Wouldn’t you consider the Emperor a powerful 
friend. Professor Seldon?” 

“I certainly would, but what has that to do with me?” 

“I am under the impression the Emperor is a friend of yours.” 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


41 


“I’m sure the records will show, Mr. Joranum, that I had an audience 
with his Imperial Majesty, eight years ago. It lasted perhaps an hour or 
less, and I saw no signs of any great friendliness in him at the time. Nor 
have I spoken to him since, or even seen him, except on holo-vision, of 
course.” 

“But, Professor, it is not necessary to see or speak to the Emperor to 
have him as a powerful friend. It is sufficient to see or speak to Eto 
Demerzel, the Emperor’s First Minister. Demerzel is your protector and, 
since he is, we may as well say the Emperor is.” 

“Do you find First Minister Demerzel’s supposed protection of me any- 
where in the records; or anything at all in the records from which you 
can deduce that protection?” 

“Why search the records when it is well-known there is a connection 
between the two of you? You know it and I know it. Let us take it then 
as given and continue. And please,” he raised his hands, “do not take 
the trouble to give me any heart-felt denials. It wastes time.” 

“Actually,” said Seldon, “I was going to ask why you should think that 
he would protect me. To what end?” 

“Professor! Are you trying to hurt me by pretending to think I am a 
monster of naivete? I mentioned your psychohistory, which Demerzel 
wants.” 

“And I told you that it was a youthful indiscretion that came to 
nothing.” 

“You may tell me a great many things. Professor. I am not compelled 
to accept what you tell me. Come, let me speak frankly. I have read your 
original paper and have tried to understand it with the help of some 
mathematicians on my staff. They tell me it is a wild dream and quite 
impossible — ” 

“I quite agree with them,” said Seldon. 

“But I have the feeling that Demerzel is waiting for it to be developed 
and put to use. And if he can wait, so can I. It would be more useful to 
you. Professor Seldon, to have me wait.” 

“Why so?” 

“Because Demerzel will not endure in his position for much longer. 
Public opinion is turning against him steadily. It may be that when the 
Emperor wearies of an unpopular First Minister who threatens to drag 
the Throne down with him, he will find some replacement. It may even 
be my poor self whom the Emperor’s fancy will seize upon. And you will 
still need a protector, someone who can see to it that you can work in 
peace and with ample funds for whatever you need in the way of equip- 
ment and assistants.” 

“And would you be that protector?” 

“Of course, and for the same reason that Demerzel is. I want a suc- 
cessful psychohistoric technique so that I can rule the Empire more 
efficiently.” 

Seldon nodded thoughtfully, waited a moment, then said, “But in that 
case, Mr. Joranum, why must I concern myself in this? I am a poor 

42 ISAAC ASIMOV 



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scholar, living a quiet life, engaged in out-of-the-way mathematical and 
pedagogical activities. You say Demerzel is my present protector and 
you will be my future protector. I can go quietly about my business, then. 
You and the First Minister may fight it out. Whoever prevails, I have 
a protector still; or, at least, so you tell me.” 

Joranum’s fixed smile seemed to fade a bit. Namarti, at his side, turned 
his dour face toward Joranum and made as though to say something, but 
Joranum’s hand moved slightly and Namarti coughed and did not speak. 

Joranum said, “Dr. Seldon. Are you a patriot?” 

“Why, of course. The Empire has given humanity millennia of 
peace — mostly peace, at any rate — and fostered steady advancement.” 

“So it has, but at a slower pace in the last century or two.” 

Seldon shrugged. “I have not studied such matters.” 

“You don’t have to. You know that politically, the last century or two 
has been a time of turmoil. Imperial reigns have been short, and some- 
times have been shortened further by assassination — ” 

“Even mentioning that,” put in Seldon, “is close to treason. I’d rather 
you didn’t — ” 

“Well, there.” Joranum threw himself back in his seat. “See how in- 
secure you are. The Empire is decaying. I’m willing to say so openly. 
Those who follow me do so because they know only too well it is. We need 
someone at the Emperor’s right hand who can control the Empire, subdue 
the rebellious impulses that seem to be arising everywhere, give the 
armed forces the natural leadership they should have, lead the econ- 
omy — ” 

Seldon made an impatient stopping motion with his arm. “And you’re 
the one to do it, are you?” 

“I intend to be the one. It won’t be an easy job and I doubt there would 
be many volunteers, for good reason. Certainly, Demerzel can’t do it. 
Under him, the decline of the Empire is accelerating to a total break- 
down.” 

“But you can stop it?” 

“Yes, Dr. Seldon. With your help. With psychohistory.” 

“Perhaps Demerzel could stop the breakdown with psychohistory — if 
psychohistory existed.” 

Joranum said calmly, “It exists. Let us not pretend it does not. But its 
existence does not help Demerzel. Psychohistory is only a tool. It needs 
a brain to understand it and an arm to wield it.” 

“And you have that, I take it?” 

“Yes. I know my own virtues. I want psychohistory.” 

Seldon shook his head. “You may want it all you please. I don’t have 
it.” 

“You do have it. I will not argue the point.” Joranum leaned closer as 
though wishing to insinuate his voice into Seldon’s ear rather than al- 
lowing the sound-waves to carry it there. “You say you are a patriot. I 
must replace Demerzel to avoid Imperial destruction. However, the man- 
ner of replacement might itself weaken the Empire desperately. I do not 

ISAAC ASIMOV 


44 


wish that. You can advise me how to achieve the end smoothly, subtly, 
without harm or damage — for the sake of the Empire.” 

Seldon said, “I cannot. You accuse me of knowledge I do not possess. 
Though my every emotion was bent on helping you, I still could not.” 

Joranum stood up, suddenly. “Well, you know my mind, and what it 
is I want of you. Think about it. And I ask you to think about the Empire. 
You may feel you owe Demerzel — this ruiner of all the millions of planets 
of humanity — ^your friendship. Be careful. What you do may shake the 
very foundation of the Empire. I ask you to help me in the name of the 
quadrillions of human beings who fill the galaxy. Think of the Empire.” 

His voice had dropped to a thrilling and powerful half-whisper. Seldon 
felt himself almost trembling. “I will always think of the Empire,” he 
said. 

Joranum said, “Then that is all I ask right now. Thank you for con- 
senting to see me.” 

Seldon watched him and his companion leave. 

He frowned. Something was bothering him, and he was not sure what 
it was. 


7. 

Namarti’s dark eyes remained fixed on Joranum as they sat in their 
carefully shielded office in the Streeling sector. It was not an elaborate 
headquarters; they were as yet weak in Streeling, but they would grow 
stronger. 

Amazing how the movement was growing. It had started from nothing 
three years back and now its tentacles stretched — in some places more 
thickly than others, of course — throughout Trantor. The Outer Worlds 
were as yet largely untouched. Demerzel had labored mightily to keep 
them content, but that was his mistake. It was here in Trantor that 
rebellions were dangerous. Elsewhere, they could be controlled. Here, 
Demerzel could be toppled. Odd that he should not realize that, but 
Joranum had always held to the theory that Demerzel’s reputation was 
overblown; that he would prove an empty shell if anyone dared oppose 
him; and that the Emperor would destroy him quickly if his own security 
seemed at stake. 

So far, at least, all of Joranum’s predictions had come to pass. He had 
never once failed to have his way except in minor matters, such as that 
recent rally at the University in which this Seldon fellow had interfered. 

That might be why Joranum had insisted on the interview with him. 
Even a minor toe-stub must be taken care of Joranum enjoyed the feeling 
of infallibility and Namarti had to admit that the vision of a constant 
string of successes was the surest way of insuring the continuation of 
success. People tended to avoid the humiliation of failure by joining the 
obviously winning side even against their own opinions. 

But had the interview with this Seldon been a success, or was it a 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 45 


second stub of the toe to be added to the first? Namarti had not enjoyed 
having been brought along in order to be made to apologize humbly, and 
he didn’t see that it had done any good. 

Now Joranum sat there, silent, obviously lost in thought, gnawing at 
the edge of one thumb as though trying to draw some sort of mental 
nourishment from it. 

“Jojo,” said Namarti softly. He was one of the very few people who 
could address Joranum by the diminutive that the crowds shouted out 
endlessly in public. Joranum solicited the love of the mob in this way, 
among others, but he demanded respect from individuals in private, 
except for those special friends who had been with him from the start. 

“Jojo,” he said again. 

Joranum looked up. “Yes, G.D., what is it?” He sounded a little testy. 

“What are we do going to do about this Seldon fellow, Jojo?” 

“Do? Nothing, right now. He may join us.” 

“Why wait? We can put pressure on him. We can pull a few strings at 
the University and make life miserable for him.” 

“No, no. So far Demerzel has been letting us go our way. The fool is 
overconfident. The last thing we want to do, though, is to push him into 
action before we are quite ready. And a heavy-handed move against 
Seldon may do it. I suspect Demerzel places enormous importance on 
Seldon.” 

“Because of this psychohistory you two talked about?” 

“Indeed.” 

“What is it? I have never heard of it.” 

“Few people have. It’s a mathematical way of analyzing human society 
that ends by predicting the future.” 

Namarti frowned and felt his body move slightly away from Joranum. 
Was this a joke of Joranum’s? Was this intended to make him laugh? 
Namarti had never been able to work out when or why people expected 
him to laugh. He never had an urge to. 

He said, “Predict the future? How?” 

“Ah! If I knew that, what need would I have of Seldon?” 

“Frankly, I don’t believe it, Jojo. How can you foretell the future? It’s 
fortune- telling.” 

“I know, but after this Seldon broke up your little rally, I had him 
looked into. All the way. Eight years ago, he came to Trantor and pre- 
sented a paper on psychohistory at a convention of mathematicians, and 
then the whole thing died. It was never referred to again by anyone. Not 
even by Seldon.” 

“It sounds as though there were nothing to it, then.” 

“Oh, no, just the reverse. If it had faded slowly, if it had been subjected 
to ridicule, I would have said there was nothing to it. But to be cut off 
suddenly and completely means that the whole thing has been placed in 
the deepest of freezes. That is why Demerzel may have been doing nothing 
to stop us. Perhaps he is not being guided by a foolish overconfidence; 
perhaps he is being guided by psychohistory, which must be predicting 

46 ISAAC ASIMOV 


RETURN 
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something that Demerzel plans to take advantage of at the right time. 
If so, we might fail unless we can make use of psychohistory ourselves.” 

“Seldon claims it doesn’t exist.” 

“Wouldn’t you if you were he?” 

“I still say we ought to put pressure on him.” 

“It would be useless, G.D. Didn’t you ever hear the story of the Axe 
of Venn?” 

“No.” 

“You would if you were from Nishaya. It’s a famous folk tale back 
home. In brief, Venn was a woodcutter who had a magic axe that, with 
a single light blow, could chop down any tree. It was enormously valuable, 
but he never made any effort to hide it or preserve it — and yet it was 
never stolen, because no one could lift or swing the axe but Venn himself. 

“Well, at the present moment, no one can handle psychohistory but 
Seldon himself. If he were on our side only because we had forced him, 
we could never be certain of his loyalty. Might he not urge a course of 
action that would seem to work in our favor but would be so subtly drawn 
that, after a while, we found ourselves, quite suddenly, destroyed? No, 
he must come to our side voluntarily, and labor for us because he wishes 
us to win.” 

“But how can we bring him about?” 

“There’s Seldon’s son. Raich, I think he’s called. Did you observe him?” 

“Not particularly.” 

“G.D., G.D., you miss points if you don’t observe everything. That 
young man listened to me with his heart in his eyes. He was impressed. 
I could tell. If there’s one thing I can tell, it is just how I impress others. 
I know when I have shaken a mind, when I have edged someone toward 
conversion.” 

Joranum smiled. It was not the pseudo-warm ingratiating smile of his 
public appearance. It was a genuine smile this time, cold, somehow, and 
menacing. 

“We’ll see what we can do with Raich,” he said, “and if, through him, 
we can reach Seldon.” 


8 . 

Raich looked at Hari Seldon after the two politicians had gone and 
fingered his mustache. It gave him satisfaction to stroke it. Here in the 
Imperial sector, some people wore mustaches, but they were usually thin, 
despicable things of uncertain color; thin, despicable things even if dark. 
Most did not wear them at all, but suffered with naked upper lips. Seldon 
didn’t, for instance, and that was just as well. With his color of hair, a 
mustache would have been a travesty. 

He watched Seldon closely, waiting for him to cease being lost in 
thought, and then found he could wait no longer. 

“Dad!” he said. 


48 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


Seldon looked up and said, “What?” He sounded a little annoyed at 
having his thoughts interrupted, Raich decided. 

Raich said, “I don’t think it was right for you to see those two guys.” 

“Oh? Why not?” 

“Well, the thin guy, whatever his name is, was the guy you made 
trouble for that time. He can’t have liked it.” 

“But he apologized.” 

“He didn’t mean it. But the other guy, Joranum — he can be dangerous. 
What if they had weapons?” 

“What? Here in the University? In my office? Of course not. This isn’t 
Billibotton. Besides, if they had tried anything, I could have handled 
both of them together. Easily.” 

“I don’t know. Dad,” said Raich, dubiously, “you’re getting — ” 

“Don’t say it, you ungrateful monster,” said Seldon, lifting an admon- 
ishing finger. “You’ll sound just like your mother and I have enough of 
that from her. I am not getting old; or at least not that old. Besides, you 
were with me and you’re almost as skilled a Twister as I am.” 

Raich’s nose wrinkled. “Twisting ain’t much good.” (It was no use. 
Raich heard himself speak and knew that even eight years out of the 
morass of Dahl, he still found it easy to speak with the Dahlite accent 
that marked him firmly as a member of some lower class. And he was 
short, too, to the point where he sometimes felt stunted. — But he had 
his mustache, and no one ever patronized him twice.) 

“Twisting ain’t much good,” he said, “unless you play by the rules and 
who says these guys will. I didn’t expect to start Twisting if they tried 
anything.” 

Casually, he drew an innocent-looking curved rod, which, at a slight 
pressure, developed a long, sharp and slightly-curved blade. 

“Raich!” said Seldon, shocked. 

“Just playing it safe. Dad.” 

“Have I, or have I not, told you a hundred times that no weapons are 
allowed on campus.” 

“Sure, but what if they had weapons.” 

“Put it away, Raich. And one last time — you are not to break the rules. 
And don’t tell your mother about it, either. She’d take it worse than I 
do.” 

“No, she wouldn’t. If she were here, you bet she’d have one, too. She 
keeps talking about how she has to protect you.” 

“She doesn’t have to. And neither do you. Put it away. — I’m seriously 
annoyed, Raich.” 

Raich put it away, but felt no contrition. In Dahl, a man without a 
knife might almost as well be without a mustache. He wasn’t in the Dahl 
sector anymore, but he still felt the force of its customs. He had been 
brought up to them in the nomadic and street-wise pre-teen years of his 
life. 

He said, “What are you going to do about Joranum?” 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


49 


“For now, nothing.” 

“Well, look. Dad, I got some recordings of his talks out of the computer 
one time. — Everyone is talking about him so I thought I would listen 
to what he has to say. And, you know, he makes some kind of sense. I 
don’t like him and I don’t trust him but he does make some kind of sense. 
He wants all sectors to have equal rights and equal opportunities, and 
there ain’t nothing wrong with that, is there?” 

“Certainly not. All civilized people feel that way.” 

“So why don’t we have that sort of stuff? Does the Emperor feel that 
way? Does Demerzel?” 

“The Emperor and the First Minister have an entire Empire to worry 
about. They can’t concentrate all their efforts on Trantor itself. It’s easy 
for Joranum to talk equality. He has no responsibilities. If he were in 
the position to rule, he would find that his efforts would be greatly diluted 
by an Empire of 25 million planets. Not only that, but he would find 
himself stopped at every point by the Sectors themselves. Each one wants 
a great deal of equality for itself, but not much equality for others. Tell 
me, Raich, are you of the opinion that Joranum ought to have a chance 
to rule, to show what he can do?” 

Raich shrugged. “I don’t know. I wonder. — But if he had tried anything 
on you, I would have had my knife at his throat before he could move 
two centimeters.” 

“Your loyalty to me, then, exceeds your concern for the Empire.” 

“Sure. You’re my Dad.” 

Seldon looked at Raich fondly, but behind that look he felt a trace of 
uncertainty. How far could Joranum’s nearly-hypnotic influence go? 


9. 

Hari Seldon sat back in his chair, the vertical back giving as he did 
so and allowing him to assume a half-reclining position. His hands were 
behind his head and his eyes were unfocused. His breathing was very 
soft indeed. 

Dors Venabili was at the other end of the room, with her viewer turned 
off and the microfilm back in place. She had been through a rather 
concentrated period of revision of her opinions on the Fiorina incident 
in early Trantorian history and she found it rather restful to withdraw 
for a few moments and to speculate on what it was that Seldon was 
considering. 

It had to be psychohistory. It would probably take him the rest of his 
life, tracking down the byways of this semi-chaotic technique. And he 
would end with it incomplete, leaving the task to others (to Amaryl, if 
that young man had not also worn himself out on the matter) and break- 
ing his heart at the need to do that. 

Yet it gave him a reason for living. He would live longer with the 

50 ISAAC ASIMOV 




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problem filling him from end to end, and that pleased her. Someday she 
would lose him, she knew, and she found that the thought afflicted her. 
It had not seemed it would at the start, when her task had been the 
simple one of protecting him for the sake of what he knew. 

When had it become a matter of personal need? How could there be 
so personal a need? What was there about the man that caused her to 
feel uneasy when he was not in her sight, even when she knew he was 
safe so that the deeply-ingrained orders within her were not called into 
action? 

His safety was all that she had been ordered to be concerned with. 
How did the rest intrude itself? 

She had asked it of Demerzel long before, when the feeling had made 
itself unmistakable. 

He had regarded her gravely and said, “You are a complex mechanism. 
Dors, and there are no simple answers. In my life there have been several 
individuals whose presence made it easier for me to think, pleasanter 
to make my responses. I have tried to judge the ease of my responses in 
their presence and the unease of my responses in their final absence to 
see whether I was the net gainer or loser. In the process, one thing 
became plain. The pleasantness of their company outweighed the regret 
of their passing. On the whole, then, it is better to experience what you 
experience now, than not to.” 

She thought: Hari will some day leave a void, and each day that some 
day is closer, and I must not think of it. It hampers my responses. 

It was to get rid of the thought that she finally interrupted him. “What 
are you thinking of, Hari?” 

“What?” Seldon focused his eyes with an apparent effort. 

“Psychohistory, I assume. I imagine you’ve traced another blind path- 
way.” 

“Well, now. That’s not on my mind at all.” He laughed suddenly. “Do 
you want to know what I’m thinking of ? — Hair!” 

“Hair? Whose?” 

“Right now, yours.” He was looking at her fondly. 

“Is there something wrong with it? Do you think it is time there was 
some gray showing?” 

“Come! Who needs or wants gray in your hair. — But it’s led me to 
other things. Nishaya, for instance.” 

“Nishaya? What’s that?” 

“It was never part of the pre-imperial kingdom of Trantor, so I’m not 
surprised you haven’t heard of it. It’s a world, a small one. Isolated. 
Unimportant. Overlooked. I only know anything at all about it because 
I’ve taken the trouble to look it up. Very few worlds out of twenty-five 
million can really make much of a sustained splash, but I doubt that 
there’s another one as insignificant as Nishaya. Which is very significant, 
you see.” 

Venabili shoved her reference material to one side and said, “What is 

52 ISAAC ASIMOV 


this new penchant you have for paradox, which you always tell me you 
detest? What is this significance of insignificance?” 

“Oh, I don’t mind paradoxes when I perpetrate them. Y ou see, Joranum 
comes from Nishaya.” 

“Ah, it’s Joranum you’re concerned with.” 

“Yes. I’ve been reading his speeches at Raich’s insistence. They don’t 
make very much sense, but I strongly suspect that when his voice is 
added the effect can be almost hypnotic. Raich is very impressed by him.” 

“I imagine that anyone of Dahlite origins would be, Hari. Joranum’s 
constant call for Sector equality would naturally appeal to the down- 
trodden Heat-sinkers. You remember when we were in Dahl?” 

“I remember it very well, and, of course, I don’t blame the lad. It just 
bothers me that Joranum comes from Nishaya.” 

Venabili shrugged. “Well, Joranum has to come from somewhere and, 
conversely, Nishaya, like any other world, must send its people out at 
times, even to Trantor.” 

“Yes, but, as I’ve said. I’ve taken the trouble to investigate Nishaya. 
I’ve even managed to make hyperspatial contact with some minor offi- 
cial — which cost a considerable quantity of money which I cannot, in 
good conscience, charge to the department.” 

“And did you find anything which was worth the money?” 

“I rather think so. You know Joranum is always telling little stories 
to make his points, stories that are current on his home planet of Nishaya. 
That serves a good purpose for him here on Trantor since it makes him 
appear to be a man of the people, and full of wise saws and home-spun 
philosophy. Those tales litter his speeches. They make him appear to be 
from a small world, to have been brought up on an isolated farm sur- 
rounded by an untamed ecology. People like it, especially Trantorians, 
who would rather die than be trapped somewhere in an untamed ecology, 
but who love to dream about one just the same.” 

“But what of it all?” 

“The odd point is that not one of the stories was familiar to the person 
I spoke to on Nishaya.” 

“That’s not significant, Hari. It may be a small world, but it’s a world. 
What is current in Joranum’s birth-section of the world may not be 
current in whatever place your official came from.” 

“No, no. Folk tales, in one form or another, are usually world wide. 
But aside from that. I had considerable trouble in understanding the 
fellow. He spoke Galactic Standard with a thick accent. I spoke to a few 
others in the world, just to check, and they all had the same accent.” 

“And what of that?” 

“Joranum doesn’t have it. He speaks a fairly good Trantorian. It’s a 
lot better than mine. I have the Heliconian stress on the letter ‘r.’ He 
doesn’t. According to the records, he arrived on Trantor when he was 
nineteen. It is just impossible, in my opinion, to spend the first nineteen 
years of your life speaking that barbarous Nishayan version of Galactic 
Standard and then come to Trantor and lose it. However long he’s been 


FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


53 


here, some trace of the accent would have remained — look at Raich and 
his Dahlite way of speaking, and he left Dahl when he was only twelve.” 

“What do you deduce from all this?” 

“What I deduce — what I’ve been sitting here all evening, deducing like 
a deduction machine — is that he didn’t come from Nishaya. In fact, I 
think he picked Nishaya as the place to pretend to come from simply 
because it is so backwoodsy, so out-of-the-way, that no one would think 
of checking it. He must have made a thorough computer search to find 
the one world least likely to allow him to be caught in a lie.” 

“But that’s ridiculous, Hari. Why should he want to pretend to be from 
a world he did not come from? It would mean a great deal of falsification 
of records.” 

“And that’s precisely what he has probably done. He’s probably got 
enough followers in the civil service to make that possible. Probably no 
one person has done much in the way of revision and all are too fanatical 
to talk about it.” 

“But still— Why?” 

“Because I suspect he doesn’t want people to know where he really 
comes from.” 

“Why not? All worlds in the Empire are equal both by laws and by 
custom.” 

“I don’t know about that. These high-ideal theories are somehow never 
borne out in real life.” 

“Then where does he come from? Do you have any idea at all?” 

“Yes. Which brings us back to this matter of hair.” 

“What about the hair?” 

“I sat there with Joranum, staring at him and feeling uneasy without 
knowing why I was feeling uneasy. Then, finally, I realized that it was 
his hair that made me uneasy. There was something about it that re- 
minded me — don’t be angry. Dors — that reminded me of you.” 

“Of me?” Venabili said strenuously, frowning. 

“There was a life to it, a gloss. I wouldn’t have noticed it, were it not 
that I’ve been looking at your hair for eight years. No one else would 
notice.” 

“This is mad, Hari. I know what you think I am, even though you 
never quite come out and say so. Do you think then that Laskin Joranum 
is a — what you think I am? He can’t be. He absolutely can’t be. Demerzel 
would know. He’s a completely human being.” 

“I know he’s human. I’ve read his speeches, you see, and no^ de- 
vice — could say such things. Joranum is not bound by the Three Laws. 
Just the same, his hair is artificial and carefully grown on a scalp that 
ought to be innocent of such things.” 

“Ought to be?” Venabili’s eyes narrowed. It was clear she suddenly 
understood. “Do you mean — ” 

“Yes, I do mean. He’s from the past-centered, mythology-ridden Tran- 
torian sector of Mycogen. That’s what he’s been laboring to hide.” 

54 ISAAC ASIMOV 


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10. 


Dors Venabili thought coolly about the matter. It was her only mode 
of thought — cool. Not for her the hot flashes of emotion. 

She closed her eyes to concentrate. It had been eight years since she 
and Hari had visited Mycogen and they hadn’t been there long then. 
There had been little to admire there, but for the food. 

The pictures arose. The harsh, puritanical, male-centered society; the 
emphasis on the past; the removal of all body hair, a matter deliberately 
imposed on themselves to make themselves different so that they would 
“know who they were”; their legends; their memories (or fancies) of a 
time when they ruled the Galaxy, when their lives were prolonged, when 
robots existed. 

She opened her eyes and said, “Why, Hari?” 

“Why what, dear?” 

She said, “Why should he pretend not to be from Mycogen?” 

She didn’t think he would remember Mycogen in greater detail than 
she; in fact, she knew he wouldn’t, but his mind was better than 
hers — different, certainly. Hers was a mind that only remembered and 
drew the obvious inferences in the fashion of a mathematic line of de- 
duction. He had a mind that leaped unexpectedly. Seldon liked to pretend 
that intuition was solely the province of his assistant, Yugo Amaryl, but 
Venabili was not fooled by that. Seldon liked to pose as the unworldly 
mathematician who stared at the world out of perpetually wondering 
eyes, but she was not fooled by that, either. 

“Why did he pretend not to be from Mycogen?” she repeated, as he sat 
there, his eyes lost in an inward look that Venabili always associated 
with his attempt to squeeze one more tiny drop of usefulness and validity 
out of the concepts of psychohistory. 

Seldon said, finally, “It’s a harsh society, a limiting society. There are 
always those who chafe over its manner of dictating every action and 
every thought. There are always those who find they cannot entirely be 
broken to the harness, who want the greater liberties available in the 
more secular world outside. It’s understandable.” 

“And they then force the growth of artificial hair?” 

“No, not generally. The average breakaway — that’s what the Myco- 
genians call the deserters, and they despise them, of course — wears a 
wig. It’s much simpler, but much less effective. Really serious Breaka- 
ways grow false hair. I’m told. The process is difficult and expensive but 
is almost unnoticeable. I’ve never come across it before though I’ve heard 
of it, and I might not have noticed it this time, if it hadn’t — ” 

He hesitated and she said, matter-of-factly, “If it hadn’t reminded you 
of my hair. How do you know all these things, Hari?” 

“Dors, I must. I’ve spent years studying all eight hundred sectors of 
Trantor, trying to work out the basic rules and mathematics of psy- 
chohistory. I have little enough to show for it, unfortunately, but I have 
learned a few things.” 


56 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


“But why, then, do the Breakaways have to hide the fact that they’re 
from Mycogen? They’re not persecuted that I know of” 

“No, they’re not. In fact, there’s no general impression that Mycogen- 
ians are inferior. It’s worse than that. The Mycogenians aren’t taken 
seriously. They’re intelligent, everyone admits that, highly-educated, 
dignified, cultured, wizards with food, almost frightening in their ca- 
pacity to keep their sector prosperous — but no one takes them seriously. 
Their beliefs strike people outside Mycogen as ridiculous, humorous, 
unbelievably foolish. And that view clings even to Mycogenians who are 
Breakaways. A Mycogenian attempt to seize power in the government 
would be crushed by laughter. Being feared is nothing. Being despised, 
even, can be lived with. But being laughed at — that’s fatal. Joranum 
wants to be First Minister, so he must have hair and, to be comfortable, 
he must represent himself as having been brought up on some obscure 
world as far from Mycogen as he can possibly manage.” 

“Surely there are some people who are naturally bald.” 

“Never as completely depilated as Mycogenians force themselves to be. 
On the Outer Worlds, it wouldn’t matter much. Mycogen is a distant 
whisper to any other world. The Mycogenians keep themselves so much 
to themselves that it is a rare one indeed who has ever left Trantor. Here 
on Trantor, though, it’s different. People might be bald, but they usually 
have a fringe of hair that advertises them as non-Mycogenian — or they 
grow facial hair. Those very few who are completely hairless — usually 
a pathological condition — are out of luck. I imagine they have to go about 
with a doctor’s certificate to prove they are not Mycogenians.” 

Dors, frowning slightly (impassivity was her natural state, but she 
understood well that to be too impassive was to fail in being human) 
said, “Does this help us any?” 

“I’m not sure.” 

“Couldn’t you let it be known that he is a Mycogenian?” 

“I’m not sure that could be done easily. He must have covered his 
tracks well, and even if it could be done — ” 

“Yes?” 

Seldon shrugged. “I don’t want to invite an appeal to bigotry. The 
social situation on Trantor is bad enough without running the risk of 
loosing passions that neither I nor anyone else could then control. If I 
do have to resort to the matter of Mycogen, it will only be as a last 
resort.” 

“Then you want minimalism, too.” 

“Of course.” 

“Then what will you do?” 

“I have the appointment with Demerzel, and it hasn’t been canceled 
yet. He may know what to do.” 

Venabili looked at him sharply. “Hari, are you falling into the trap of 
expecting Demerzel to solve all problems for you?” 

“No, but perhaps he’ll solve this one.” 

“And if he doesn’t?” 


FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


57 


“Then I’ll have to think of something else, won’t I?” 

“Like what?” 

A look of pain crossed Seldon’s face. “Dors, I don’t know. Don’t expect 
me to solve all problems, either.” 


11 . 

Eto Demerzel was not frequently seen. It was his policy to remain in 
the background, for a variety of reasons, one of which was that his 
appearance changed so little with time. 

Hari Seldon had not seen him, except for occasional glimpses (as any- 
one on Trantor might now and then) over a period of some years and 
had not spoken to him truly in private since the old days of his early 
time on Trantor. Seeing Demerzel now brought back those days achingly. 
The mere fact that Demerzel still looked exactly as he did made the ache 
sharper. His face still had its strong regular features. He was still tall 
and well-built, with the same dark hair with the hint of blond. He was 
not pretty, but was gravely distinguished. He looked like someone’s ideal 
picture of what an Imperial First Minister ought to look like, and not 
at all as any such official in history before his time ever had. It was his 
appearance, Seldon thought, that gave him half his power over the Em- 
peror, and therefore over the Imperial Court, and therefore over the 
Empire. Demerzel advanced toward him, a gentle smile curving his lips 
without that in anyway altering the gravity of his countenance, somehow. 

“Hari,” he said. “It is pleasant to see you. I was half-afraid you would 
change your mind and cancel.” 

“I was more than half-afraid you would. First Minister.” 

“Eto — if you fear using my real name.” 

“I couldn’t. It won’t come out of me. You know that.” 

“It will to me. Say it. I would rather like to hear it.” 

Seldon hesitated, as though he couldn’t believe his lips could frame the 
words or his vocal cords sound them. “Daneel,” he said, at length. 

“R. Daneel Olivaw,” said Demerzel. “Yes. You will dine with me, Hari. 
If I dine with you, I won’t have to eat, which will be a relief.” 

“Gladly, though one-way eating is not my idea of a convivial time. 
Surely, a bite or two — ” 

“To please you — ” 

“Just the same,” said Seldon, “I can’t help but wonder if it is wise to 
spend too much time together.” 

“It is. Imperial orders. His Imperial Majesty wants me to.” 

“Why, Daneel?” 

“In two more years, the Decennial Mathematical Congress will be 
meeting again. — You look surprised. Have you forgotten?” 

“Not really. I just haven’t thought about it.” 

“Were you not going to attend? You were a hit at the last one.” 

“Yes. With my psychohistory. Some hit.” 


58 


ISAAC ASIMOV 



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“You attracted the attention of the Emperor. No other mathematician 
did.” 

“It was you who were initially attracted, not the Emperor. Then I had 
to run and stay out of the Imperial notice until such time as I could 
assure you that I had made a start on my psychohistorical research, after 
which you allowed me to remain in safe obscurity.” 

“Being the head of a prestigious mathematics department is scarcely 
obscurity.” 

“Yes, it is, since it hides my psychohistory.” 

“Ah, the food is arriving. For a while, let’s talk about other things as 
befits friends. How is Dors?” 

“Wonderful. A true wife. Hounds me to death with her worries over 
my safety.” 

“That is her job.” 

“So she reminds me, frequently. Seriously, Daneel, I can never be 
sufficiently grateful to you for bringing us together.” 

“Thank you, Hari, but, to be truthful, I did not foresee married hap- 
piness. Even had I thought it of you, I would not of Dors.” 

“Thank you for the gift just the same, however short of the actual 
consequences your expectations were.” 

“I’m delighted, but it is a gift, you will find, that may be of dubious 
further consequence, as is my friendship.” 

“Because you’re robots?” said Seldon, but Demerzel did not answer 
that and merely made a gesture that Seldon was to fall to. 

Which he did. After a while, he turned the morsel of fish on his fork 
and said, “I don’t actually recognize the organism, but this is Mycogenian 
cooking.” 

“Yes, it is. The Emperor is fond of it, at least now and then. And I 
know you are.” 

“It’s their excuse for existence. Their only excuse. But they have special 
meaning to you. I mustn’t forget that.” 

“The special meaning has come to an end. Their ancestors, long, long 
ago, inhabited the planet of Aurora. They lived three hundred years and 
more and were the lords of fifty worlds of the Galaxy. It was an Auroran 
who first designed and produced me. I don’t forget that; I remember it 
far more accurately, and with less distortion, than their Mycogenian 
descendants do. But then, long, long ago, I left them. I made my choice 
as to what the good of humanity must be and I have followed it, as best 
I could, all this time.” 

Seldon said, with sudden alarm, “Can we be overheard?” 

Demerzel seemed amused. “If you have only thought of that now, it 
is far too late. But fear not, I have taken the necessary precautions. Nor 
have you been seen by too many eyes when you came. Nor will you be 
seen by too many when you leave. And those who do see you will not be 
surprised. I am well-known to be an amateur mathematician of great 
pretensions but of little ability. That is a source of amusement to those 
at the Court who are not entirely my friends, and it would not surprise 

60 ISAAC ASIMOV 


anyone here that I should be concerned about laying the groundwork for 
the forthcoming Congress. It is about that that I wish to consult you.” 

“I don’t know that I can help. There is only one thing I can talk about 
at the Congress, and I can’t talk about it. If I attend at all, it will only 
be as part of the audience. I do not intend to present any papers.” 

“I understand. Still, if you would like to hear something curious. His 
Imperial Majesty remembers you.” 

“Because you have kept me in his mind, I suppose.” 

“No. I have not labored to do so. However, His Imperial Majesty oc- 
casionally surprises me. He is aware of the forthcoming Congress and 
he apparently remembers your talk at the earlier one. He remains in- 
terested in the matter of psychohistory and more may come of it, I must 
warn you. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he may ask to 
see you. The Court will surely consider it a great honor — for you to 
receive the Imperial call twice in a single lifetime.” 

“You’re joking. What could be served by my seeing him?” 

“In any case, if you are called to an audience, you can scarcely refuse. 
— How are your young proteges, Yugo and Raich?” 

“Surely you know. I imagine you keep a close eye on me.” 

“Yes, I do. On your safety, but not on every aspect of your life. I am 
afraid my duties fill much of my time and I am not all-seeing.” 

“Doesn’t Dors report?” 

“She would in a crisis. Not otherwise. She is reluctant to play the role 
of spy in non-essentials.” Again the small smile. 

Seldon grunted. “My boys are doing well. Yugo is increasingly difficult 
to handle. He’s more of a psychohistorian than I am and I think he feels 
I hold him back. As for Raich, he’s a lovable rascal; always was. He won 
me over when he was a dreadful street-urchin and what’s more surprising 
is that he won over Dors. I honestly believe, Daneel, that if Dors grew 
sick of me and wanted to leave me, she would stay on anyway for love 
of Raich. What gives her the mother instinct?” 

“Whether an emotion is a matter of hormones or of positronic potentials 
makes little difference, surely. What counts is the outward show that is 
produced. Besides, as you say, Raich is lovable.” 

Seldon nodded somberly. “If Rashelle of Wye hadn’t found him lovable, 
I would not be here today. I would have been shot down — ” He stirred 
uneasily. “I hate to think of that, Daneel. It was such an entirely acci- 
dental and unpredictable event. How could psychohistory have helped 
in any way?” 

“Have you not told me that at best, psychohistory can deal only in 
probabilities and with vast numbers; not with individuals?” 

“But if the individual happens to be crucial — ” 

“I suspect you will find that no individual is ever truly crucial. Not 
even I — or you.” 

“Perhaps you’re right. I find that no matter how I work away under 
these assumptions, I nevertheless think of myself as crucial, in a kind 
of supernormal egotism that transcends all sense. — And you are crucial, 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 61 


too. which IS something 1 have come here to discuss with you, as frankly 
as possible. I must know.” 

"Know what?" The remains of the meal had been cleared away and 
the room s lighting had dimmed somewhat so that the walls seemed to 
close in and give the impression of great privacy. 

Seldon said. "Joranum." He bit off the word, as though feeling it alone 
should be sufficient. 

"Ah. yes." 

"You know about him.” 

"Of course. How could I avoid knowing?” 

"Well. I want, to know about him, too.” 

"WTiat do you want to know?” 

“Come, Daneel, don’t play with me. Is he dangerous?” 

“Of course he is dangerous. Do you have any doubt of that?” 

“I mean, to you? To your position as First Minister?” 

“That is exactly what I mean. That is how he is dangerous.” 

“And you allow it?” 

Demerzel leaned forward, elbow on the table between them. “There 
are things that don’t wait upon my permission, Hari. Let us be philo- 
sophical about it. His Imperial Majesty, Cleon, First of that Name, has 
now been on the throne for eighteen years and for all that time I have 
been his First Minister, having served in a scarcely lesser capacity during 
the last years of the reign of his father. It is a long time and First 
Ministers rarely remain that long in power.” 

“You are not the ordinary First Minister, Daneel, and you know it. 
You must remain in power while psychohistory is being developed. Don’t 
smile at me. It’s true. When we first met, eight years ago, you told me 
the Empire was in a state of decay and decline. Have you changed your 
mind about that?” 

“No, of course not.” 

“In fact, the decline is more marked now, isn’t it?” 

“Yes, it is. Though I labor to prevent that.” 

“And without you, what would happen? Joranum is raising the Empire 
against you.” 

“Trantor, Hari. Trantor. The provinces are solid and rea.sonably con- 
tented with my deeds so far, even in the midst of a declining economy 
and lessening trade.” 

“But Trantor is where it counts. Trantor, the Imperial world we’re 
living on, the capital of the Empire, the core, the administrative center, 
is what can overthrow you. You cannot keep your post if Trantor says 
‘No’.” 

“I agree.” 

“And if you go, who will then take care of the provinces and what will 
keep the decline from being precipitated, and the Empire from degen- 
erating rapidly into anarchy?” 

“That is a possibility, certainly.” 

“So you must be doing something about it. Yugo is convinced you are 

62 ISAAC ASIMOV 


in deadly danger and can’t maintain your position. His intuition tells 
him so. Dors says the same thing, and explains it in terms of the Three 
Laws, or Four of — of — ” 

“Robotics,” put in Demerzel. 

“Young Raich seems attracted to Joranum’s doctrines — being of Dah- 
lite origin, you see. And I — I am uncertain, so I come to you for comfort, 
I suppose. Tell me that you have the situation well in hand.” 

“I would do so if I could. However, I have no comfort to offer. I am in 
danger.” 

“Are you doing nothing?” 

“No. I’m doing a great deal to contain discontent and blunt Joranum’s 
message. If I had not done so, then perhaps I would be out of office 
already. But what I’m doing is not enough.” 

Seldon hesitated. Finally, he said, “I am of the opinion that Joranum 
is actually a Mycogenian.” 

“Is that so?” 

“It is my opinion. I had thought we might use that against him, but 
I hesitate to unleash the forces of bigotry.” 

“You are wise to hesitate. There are many things that might be done 
that have side-effects we do not want. You see, Hari, I don’t fear leaving 
my post, if some successor could be found who would continue those 
principles which I have been using to keep the decline as slow as possible. 
On the other hand, if Joranum himself were to succeed me then that, in 
my opinion, would be fatal.” 

‘Then anything we can do to stop him would be suitable.” 

“Not entirely. The Empire can grow anarchic even if Joranum is de- 
stroyed and I stay. I must not, then, do something that will destroy 
Joranum and allow me to stay, if that very deed promotes the fall of the 
Empire. I have not yet been able to think of anything I might do that 
would surely destroy Joranum and just as surely avoid anarchy.” 

“Minimalism,” whispered Seldon. 

“Pardon me?” 

“Dors explained that you would be bound by minimalism.” 

“And so I am.” 

“Then my visit with you is a failure, Daneel.” 

“You mean that you came for comfort and didn’t get it.” 

“I’m afraid so.” 

“But I saw you because I sought comfort as well.” 

“From me? 

“From psychohistory. The route to safety that I cannot see, psycho- 
history should.” 

Seldon sighed heavily. “Daneel, psychohistory has not yet been de- 
veloped to that point.” 

The First Minister looked at him gravely. “You’ve had eight years, 
Hari.” 

“It might be eight or eight hundred and it might not be developed to 
that point. It is an intractable problem.” 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


63 


Demerzel said, “I do not expect the technique to have been perfected, 
but you may have some sketch, some skeleton, some principle that you 
can use as guidance. Imperfectly, perhaps, but better than mere guess- 
work.” 

“Not even that,” said Seldon mournfully. “Here’s what it amounts to, 
then. You must remain in power and Joranum must be destroyed in such 
a way that Imperial stability is maintained as long as possible so that 
I may have a reasonable chance to work out psychohistory. This cannot 
be done, however, unless I work out psychohistory first. Is that it?” 

“It would seem so, Hari.” 

“Then we argue in a useless circle and the Empire is destroyed.” 

“Unless something unforeseen happens. Unless you make something 
unforeseen happen.” 

“I? Daneel, how can I do it without psychohistory?” 

“I don’t know, Hari.” 

And Seldon rose to go, in despair. 


12 . 

For days thereafter, Hari Seldon neglected his departmental duties to 
use his computer in its news-gathering mode. 

There were not many computers capable of handling the daily news 
from 25 million worlds. There were a number of them at Imperial head- 
quarters, where they were absolutely necessary. Some of the larger prov- 
incial capitals had them as well, though most were satisfied with hyper- 
connection to the Central Newspost on Trantor. 

A computer at an important mathematics department could, if it were 
sufficiently advanced, be modified as, an independent news-source, and 
Seldon had been careful to do that with his computer. It was, after all, 
necessary for his work on psychohistory, though the computer’s capa- 
bilities were carefully ascribed to other, exceedingly plausible, reasons. 

Ideally, the computer would report anything that was out of the way 
on any world of the Empire. A coded and unobtrusive warning light 
would make itself evident and Seldon could track it down easily. Such 
a light rarely showed, for the definition of “out of the way” was tight 
and intense, and dealt with large-scale and rare upheavals. 

What one did in its absence was to ring in various worlds at random; 
not all twenty -five million, of course, but some dozens. It was a depressing 
and even debilitating task for there were no worlds that didn’t have their 
daily, relatively minor, catastrophes. A volcanic eruption here, a flood 
there, an economic collapse of one sort or another yonder and, of course, 
riots. There had not been a day in the last thousand years that there 
had not been riots over something or other on each of a hundred or more 
different worlds. 

Naturally, such things had to be discounted. One could scarcely worry 
about riots any more than one could about volcanic eruptions when both 

64 ISAAC ASIMOV 


were constants on inhabited worlds. Rather, if a day should come in 
which not one riot was reported anywhere that might be a sign of some- 
thing so unusual as to warrant the gravest concern. 

Concern was what Seldon could not make himself feel. The provinces, 
with all their disorders and misfortunes, were like the ocean on a peaceful 
day, with a gentle swell and minor heavings, but no more. He found no 
evidence of any overall situation that clearly showed a decline in the last 
eight years, or the last eighty, perhaps. Yet Demerzel (in Demerzel’s 
absence, Seldon could no longer think of him as “Daneel”) said the decline 
was continuing and he had his finger on the Empire’s pulse from day to 
day in ways that Seldon could not duplicate — until such time as he would 
have the guiding power of psychohistory at his disposal. 

It could be that the decline was so small that it was unnoticeable till 
some crucial point was reached; like a domicile that slowly wears out 
and deteriorates, showing no signs of that deterioration until one night 
when the roof collapses. 

When would the roof collapse? That was the problem and to it Seldon 
had no answer. 

And, on occasion, Seldon would check on Trantor itself There, the 
news was always considerably more substantial. For one thing, Trantor 
was the most highly populated of all the worlds, with its 40 billion people. 
For another, its eighty sectors formed a mini-Empire all its own. For a 
third, there were the tedious rounds of governmental functions and the 
doings of the Imperial family to follow. 

What struck Seldon’s eyes, however, was in the Dahl Section. The 
elections for the Sectional Council had placed five Joranumites into office. 
This was the first time, according to the commentary, that Joranumites 
had achieved Sectional office. 

It was not surprising. Dahl was a Joranumite stronghold if any section 
was, but Seldon found it a disturbing indication of the progress being 
made by the demagogue. He faxed the item and took it home that evening. 

Raich looked up from his computer as Seldon entered and apparently 
felt the need to explain himself. “I’m helping Mom on some reference 
material she needs,” he said. 

“What about your own work?” 

“Done, Dad. All done.” 

“Good. — Look at this.” He placed the fax before Raich’s eyes. 

Raich glanced at it and said, “Yes, I know.” 

“You do?” 

“Sure. I keep track of Dahl usually. You know. Hometown.” 

“And what do you think about it?” 

“I’m not surprised. Are you? The rest of Trantor treats Dahl like dirt. 
Why shouldn’t they go for Joranum’s views?” 

“Do you go for them also?” 

“Well — ” Raich twisted his face thoughtfully. “I got to admit some 
things he says appeal to me. He says he wants equality for all people. 
What’s wrong with that?” 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


65 


“Nothing at all, if he means it. If he’s sincere. If he isn’t just using it 
as a ploy to get votes.” 

“True enough, Dad, but most Dahlites probably figure; What’s there 
to lose? We don’t have equality now, though the laws say we do.” 

“It’s a hard thing to legislate.” 

“That’s not something to warm you when you’re freezing.” 

Seldon was thinking rapidly. He had been thinking since he had come 
across this item. He said, “Raich, you’ve never been in Dahl since your 
mother and I took you out of the Section, have you?” 

“Sure I was, when I went with you to Dahl five years ago on your visit 
there.” 

“Yes, yes,” Seldon waved a hand in dismissal, “but that doesn’t count. 
We stayed at the Intersectional Hotel which was not in the least Dahlite 
in atmosphere and, as I recall. Dors never once let you out on the streets 
alone. After all, you were only fifteen.” 

“I remember that very well. Dad. I was fully fifteen, as I recall.” 

“You have a sharp tongue, young man.” 

“No offense. Dad, but I didn’t like it at the time.” 

“In that case, Raich, how would it be if you were to visit Dahl now, 
alone, in charge of yourself — now that you’re fully twenty?” 

Raich chuckled. “Mom would never allow that.” 

“I don’t say that I enjoy the prospect of facing her with it, but I don’t 
intend to ask her permission. The question is; Would you be willing to 
do this for me?” 

“Out of curiosity? Sure. I’d like to see what’s happened to the old place.” 

“Can you spare the time from your studies?” 

“Sure. I’ll never miss a week or so. Besides, we can record the lectures 
and the viewings and I’ll catch up when I get back. I can get permission. 
After all, my old man’s on the faculty — unless you’ve been fired. Dad.” 

“Not yet. But I’m not thinking of this as a fun vacation.” 

“I’d be surprised if you did. I don’t think you know what a fun vacation 
is. Dad. I’m surprised you know the phrase.” 

“Don’t be impertinent. When you go there, I want you to meet with 
Laskin Joranum.” 

Raich looked startled. “How do I do that? I don’t know where he’s 
gonna be.” 

“He’s going to be in Dahl. He’s been asked to speak to the Council with 
its new Joranumite members. We’ll find out the exact day and you can 
go a few days earlier.” 

“And how do I get to see him, Dad? I don’t figure he keeps open house.” 

“I don’t either, but I’ll leave that up to you. You would have known 
how to do it when you were twelve. I hope your keen edge hasn’t blunted 
too badly in the intervening years.” 

Raich smiled. “I hope not. But suppose I do see him. What then?” 

“Well, then, find out what you can. What he’s really planning. What 
he’s really thinking.” 

“Do you really think he’s gonna tell me?” 


66 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


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“I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. You have the trick of inspiring 
confidence, you miserable youngster. Let’s talk about it.” 

And so they did. Several times. 

Seldon’s thoughts were painful. He was not at all sure where all this 
was leading to, but he dared not consult Yugo Amaryl, or Demerzel, or 
(most of all) Dors Venabili. They might stop him. They might prove to 
him that his idea was a poor one, and he didn’t want that proof What 
he planned seemed the only gateway to salvation and he didn’t want it 
blocked. 

But did the gateway exist at all? Raich was the only one, it seemed 
to Seldon, who could possibly manage to worm himself into Joranum’s 
confidence, but was Raich the proper tool for the purpose? He was a 
Dahlite and sympathetic to Joranum. How far could Seldon trust him? 

Horrible! Seldon had never had occasion to mistrust Raich before. 


13. 

If Seldon doubted the efficacy of his notion; if he feared that it might 
explode matters prematurely, or move them desperately in the wrong 
direction; if he was filled with an agonizing doubt as to whether Raich 
could be entirely trusted to fulfill his part suitably; he nevertheless had 
no doubt — no doubt whatever — as to what Venabili’s reaction would be 
when presented with the fait accompli. 

And he was not disappointed, if that was quite the word to express his 
emotion. 

Yet in a manner, he was disappointed, for she did not raise her voice 
in horror as he had somehow thought she would; as he had prepared 
himself to withstand. 

But how was he to know? She was not as other women were and he 
had never seen her truly angry. Perhaps it was not in her to be truly 
angry, or what he would consider to be truly angry. 

She was merely cold-eyed and spoke with low-voiced bitter disapproval. 
“You sent him to Dahl? Alone?” Very softly. Questioningly. 

For a moment, Seldon quailed at the quiet voice. Then he said firmly, 
“I had to. It was necessary.” 

“Let me understand. You sent him to that den of thieves; that haunt 
of assassins; that conglomeration of all that is criminal?” 

“Not at all. Dors. You anger me when you speak like that. I would 
expect only a cheap bigot to make use of those stereotypes.” 

“You deny that Dahl is as I have described?” 

“Of course I deny it. There are criminals and slums in Dahl. I know 
that very well. We both know that. But not all of Dahl is that. And there 
are criminals and slums in every section, even in the Imperial section 
and in Streeling.” 

“There are degrees, are there not? One is not ten. If all the Sections 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 69 


are crime-ridden; if all the worlds are crime-ridden, Dahl is among the 
most riddled, is it not? You have the computer. Check the statistics.” 

“I don’t have to. Dahl is the poorest section on Trantor and there is a 
positive correlation between poverty, misery, and crime. I grant you 
that.” 

“You grant me that! And you sent him alone? You might have gone 
with him, or asked me to go with him, or sent half a dozen of his school- 
mates with him. They would have been glad of a respite from their work. 
I’m sure.” 

“What I need him for requires him to be alone.” 

“And what do you need him for?” 

But Seldon was stubbornly silent about that. 

Venabili said, “Has it come to this? You don’t trust me?” 

“It’s a gamble. I alone dare take the risk. I can’t involve you or anyone 
else.” 

“But it’s not you taking the risk. It’s poor Raich.” 

“He’s not taking any risk,” said Seldon impatiently. “He’s twenty years 
old, young and vigorous, and as sturdy as a tree, and I don’t mean the 
saplings we have here under glass in Trantor. I’m talking about a good 
tree in the Heliconian forests. And he’s a Twister, which the Dahlites 
aren’t.” 

“You and your Twisting,” said Venabili, her coldness not thawing a 
whit. “You think that’s the answer to everything. The Dahlites carry 
knives. Every one of them. Blasters, too. I’m sure.” 

“I don’t know about blasters. The laws are pretty strict when it comes 
to missile weapons. As for knives. I’m positive !^ich carries one. He 
carries it on campus here where it’s strictly against the law. Do you 
think he won’t have one in Dahl?” 

Venabili remained silent. 

Seldon was also silent for a few minutes, then decided it might be time 
to placate her. He said, “Look, I’ll tell you this much. I’m hoping he’ll 
see Joranum, who will be visiting Dahl.” 

“Oh? And what do you expect Raich to do? Fill him with bitter regrets 
over his wicked politics and send him back to Mycogen?” 

“Come. Really. If you’re going to take this sardonic attitude, there’s 
no use discussing it. What I expect him to do,” and his voice faltered for 
a moment, “is save the Empire.” 

‘To be sure. That would be much easier.” 

Seldon’s voice firmed. “It’s what I expect. You have no solution. De- 
merzel himself has no solution. He as much as said that the solution 
rests with me. That’s what I’m striving for, and that’s what I need Raich 
for in Dahl. After all, you know that ability of his to inspire affection. 
It worked with us, and I’m convinced it will work with Joranum. If I am 
right, all may be well.” 

Venabili’s eyes widened a trifle. “Are you now going to tell me that 
you are being guided by psychohistory?” 

“No. I’m not going to lie to you. I have not reached the point where I 

70 ISAAC ASIMOV 


can be guided in any way by psychohistory, but Yugo is constantly talking 
about intuition, and I have mine.” 

“Intuition! What’s that? Define it!” 

“Easily. Intuition is the art, peculiar to the human mind, of working 
out the correct answer from data which is, in itself, incomplete, or even 
perhaps misleading.” 

“And you’ve done it.” 

And Seldon said, with firm conviction, “Yes, I have.” 

But to himself, he thought what he dared not share with Dors Venabili. 
What if Raich’s charm were gone? Or, worse, what if the consciousness 
of being a Dahlite became too strong for him? 


14. 

Billibotton was Billibotton; dirty, sprawling, dark, sinuous Billibotton; 
exuding decay and yet full of a vitality that Raich was convinced was 
to be found nowhere else on Trantor. Perhaps it was to be found nowhere 
else in the Empire, though Raich knew nothing, first-hand, of any world 
but Trantor. 

He had last seen Billibotton when he was not much more than twelve, 
but even the people seemed to be the same; still a mixture of the hang- 
dog and the irreverent; filled with a synthetic pride and a grumbling 
resentment; marked (the men at least) by their dark, rich mustaches, 
and the women by their sack-like dresses that now looked tremendously 
slatternly to Raich’s older and more worldly-wise eyes. 

How could women with dresses like that attract men? — But it was a 
foolish question. Even when he was twelve, he had had a pretty clear 
idea of how easily and quickly they could be removed. 

So he stood there, lost in thought and memory, passing along a street 
of store-windows and trying to convince himself that he remembered this 
particular place or that, and wondering, if among them all, there were 
people who he did remember and who were now eight years older. Those, 
perhaps, who had been his boyhood friends, and he thought uneasily of 
the fact that while he remembered some of the nicknames they had 
pinned on each other, he could not remember any real names. 

In fact, the gaps in his memory were enormous. It was not that eight 
years was such a long time, but it was two-fifths of the lifetime of a 
twenty-year-old, and his life since leaving Billibotton had been so dif- 
ferent that all before it had faded like a misty dream. 

But the smells were there. He stopped outside a bakery, low and dingy, 
and smelled the coconut-icing that reeked through the air, and that he 
had never quite smelled elsewhere. Even when he had stopped to buy 
tarts with coconut-icing; even when they were advertised as “Dahl-style,” 
they had been faint imitations, no more. 

He felt strongly tempted. Well, why not? He had the money, and Dors 
was not there to wrinkle her nose and wonder aloud how clean — or, more 


FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


71 


likely, not clean — the place might be. Who worried about clean in the 
old days? 

The shop was dim and it took a while for Raich’s eyes to accommodate. 
There were a few low tables in the place, with a couple of rather insub- 
stantial chairs at each, undoubtedly where people might have a light 
repast, the equivalent of moka and tarts. One young man sat at one of 
the tables, an empty cup before him, wearing a once-white T-shirt that 
probably would have looked even dirtier in a better light. 

The baker or, in any case, a server, stepped out from a room in the 
rear and said, in rather surly fashion, “What’ll ya have?” 

“A coke-icer,” said Raich, in just as surly a fashion (he would not be 
a Billibottoner if he displayed courtesy) and used the slang term he 
remembered well from the old days. 

The term was still current, for the server handed him the correct item, 
using his bare fingers for the purpose. The boy Raich would have taken 
that for granted, but now the man Raich felt taken slightly aback. 

“You want a bag?” 

“No,” said Raich, “I’ll eat it here.” He took it from the other’s hand 
and bit into its richness, his eyes half-closing as he ^id so. It had been 
a rare treat in his boyhood; sometimes when he had scrounged the nec- 
essary coin to buy it with; sometimes when he had received a bite from 
a temporarily wealthy friend; most often when he had appropriated it 
when no one was watching. Now he could buy as many as he wished. 

“Hey,” said a voice. 

Raich opened his eyes. It was the man at the table, scowling at him. 

Raich said gently, “Are you speaking to me, bub?” 

“Yeah. What’chuh doin?” 

“Batin’ a coke-icer. What’s it to ya?” Automatically, he had assumed 
the Billibotton way of talking. It was no strain at all. 

“Whatchuh doin’ in Billibotton?” 

“Born here. Raised here. In a bed. Not in a street, like you.” The insult 
came easily, as though he had never left home. 

“That so? You dress pretty good for a Billibottoner. Pretty fancy. (Jot 
a perfume-stink about ya?” And he held up a little finger to imply ef- 
feminacy. 

“I won’t talk about your stink. I went up in the world.” 

“Up in the world? La-dee-da.” Two other men stepped into the bakery. 
Raich frowned slightly, for he wasn’t sure whether they had been sum- 
moned or not. The man at the table said to the newcomers, “This guy’s 
gone up in the world. Says he’s a Billibottoner.” 

One of the two newcomers shambled a mock-salute and grinned with 
no appearance of amiability. His teeth were discolored. “Ain’t that nice? 
It’s always good to see a Billibottoner go up in the world. Gives them a 
chance to help their poor unforchnit section-people. Like money. You can 
always spare a little money for the poor, hey?” 

“How much you got, mister?” said the other, the grin disappearing. 

ISAAC ASIMOV 


72 


“Hey,” said the man behind the counter. “All you guys get out of my 
store. I don’t want no trouble in here.” 

“There’ll be no trouble,” said Raich. “I’m leaving.” 

He made to go, but the seated man put a leg in the way. “Don’t go, 
cockamamie. We’d miss yer company.” 

(The man behind the counter, clearly fearing the worst, disappeared 
into the rear.) 

Raich smiled. He said, “One time when I was in Billibotton, guys, I 
was with my old man and old lady, and there were ten guys who stopped 
us. Ten. I counted them. We had to take care of them.” 

“Yeah?” said the one who had been speaking. “Yer old man took care 
often?” 

“My old man? Nah. He wouldn’t waste his time. My old lady did. And 
I can do it better than she can. And there are only three of you. So, if 
you don’t mind, out of the way.” 

“Sure. Just leave all your money. Some of your clothes, too.” 

The man at the table rose to his feet. There was a knife in his hand. 

“There you are,” said Raich. “Now you’re going to waste my time.” He 
had finished his coke-icer and he half-turned. Then, as quickly as 
thought, he anchored himself to the table while his right leg shot out 
and the point of his toe landed unerringly in the groin of the man with 
the knife. 

Down he went, with a loud cry; up went the table, driving the second 
man toward the wall and keeping him there, while Raich’s right arm 
flashed out with the edge of the palm striking hard against the larynx 
of the third, who coughed and went down. 

It had taken two seconds and Raich now stood there with a knife in 
each hand and said, “Now which one of you wants to move.” 

They glared at him but remained frozen in place, and Raich said, “In 
that case, I will now leave.” 

But the server, who had been behind the counter, must have had a 
rear entrance available to him, and he must have been able to summon 
help, for three more men had now entered the store, while the server 
screeched, “Troublemakers! Nothing but troublemakers!” 

The newcomers were dressed alike in what was obviously a uniform, 
but one that Raich had never seen. 

Trousers were tucked into boots, loose green T-shirts were belted, and 
odd semi-spherical hats that looked vaguely comic were perched on top 
of their heads. On the front of the left shoulder of each T-shirt was a 
large capital J. 

They had the Dahlite look about them, but not quite the Dahlite mus- 
tache. The mustaches were black and thick, but they were carefully 
trimmed at lip-level and were kept from luxuriating too widely. Raich 
allowed himself an internal sneer. They lacked the vigor of his own wild 
mustache, but he had to admit they looked neat and clean. 

The leader of the three men said, “I’m Corporal Quinber. What’s been 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 73 



going on here?” 

The three Billibottoners were scrambling to their feet, clearly the 
worse for wear. One was still doubled over, one was rubbing his throat 
and the third acted as though his shoulder had been wrenched. 

The Corporal stared at them with a philosophic eye, while his two men 
blocked the door. He turned to Raich, as the one man who seemed un- 
touched. “Are you a Billibottoner, boy?” 

“Born and bred, but I’ve lived elsewhere for eight years.” He let the 
Billibotton accent recede, but it was still there, at least to the extent that 
it existed in the Corporal’s speech as well. There were other parts of 
Dahl aside from Billibotton, and some parts with considerable aspirations 
to gentility. 

Raich said, “Are you the police? I don’t seem to recall the uniform 
you’re — ” 

“We’re not the police. You won’t find the police in Billibotton much. 
We’re the Joranum Guard and we keep the peace here. We know these 
three, and they’ve been warned. We’ll take care of them. You’re our 
problem, buster. Name. Reference number.” 

Raich told them. 

“And what happened here?” 

Raich told them. 

“And your business here?” 

Raich said, “Look here. Do you have the right to question me? If you’re 
not the police — ” 

“Listen,” said the Corporal in a hard voice, “Don’t question rights. 
We’re all there are in Billibotton and we have the right because we take 
the right. You say you beat up these three men and I believe you. But 
you won’t beat us up, so don’t try. We’re not allowed to carry blasters — ” 
and with that the Corporal, with no hurry, produced a blaster. 

“Now tell me your business here.” 

Raich sighed. If he had gone directly to Section Hall, as he ought to 
have done — if he had not stopped to drown himself in nostalgia for Bil- 
libotton and coke-icers — 

He said, “I have come on important business to see Mr. Joranum and 
since you seem to be part of his organi — ” 

“To see the Leader?” 

“Yes, Corporal?” 

“With two knives on you?” 

“For self-defense here. There was no thought of having them on me 
when I saw Mr. Joranum.” 

“So you say. We’re taking you into custody, mister. We’ll get to the 
bottom of this. It may take time, but we will.” 

“But you don’t have the right. You’re not the legally const — ” 

“Well, find someone to complain to. Till then, you’re ours.” 

And the knives were taken away from him, and Raich was suddenly 
conscious of having a bad headache. 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


75 


15. 


Cleon I was no longer quite the handsome young monarch of the 
holographs. Perhaps he still was — in the holographs — but his mirror told 
a different story. His most recent birthday had been celebrated with the 
usual pomp and ritual, but it was his fortieth just the same. 

Nothing wrong with forty. His health was perfect. He had gained a 
little weight, but not much. 

His face would perhaps look older if it were not for the microadjust- 
ments that were made periodically, and that did give him a slightly 
enameled look. 

He had been on the throne eighteen years. That was already one of 
the longer reigns of the century and he felt there was nothing that might 
necessarily keep him from reigning another forty years and perhaps 
having the longest reign in Imperial history as a result. 

He looked at the mirror again and thought he looked a bit better if he 
left it plane, and did not actualize the third dimension. 

Now take Demerzel; faithful, reliable, necessary, unbearable Demer- 
zel. No change in him. He maintained his appearance and, as far as 
Cleon knew, there had been no microadjustments, either. Of course, 
Demerzel was so close-mouthed about ever^hing. And he had never been 
young. 

There had been no young look about him when he first served Cleon’s 
father and Cleon had been the boyish Prince Imperial. And there was 
no young look about him now. Was it better to have looked old at the 
start and to avoid change afterward? 

Change! 

It reminded him that he had called in Demerzel for a purpose and not 
just in order that he might stand there while the Emperor ruminated. 
Demerzel would take too much Imperial rumination as a sign of old age. 

“Demerzel,” he said. 

“Sire?” 

“This fellow, Joranum. I am tired of hearing of him.” 

“There is no reason you should hear of him. Sire. He is one of those 
phenomena that are thrown to the surface of the news for a while and 
then disappear.” 

“But he doesn’t disappear.” 

“Sometimes it takes a while. Sire.” 

“What do you think of him, Demerzel?” 

“He is dangerous, but has a certain popularity. It is the popularity 
that increases the danger.” 

“If you find him dangerous and if I find him annoying, why must we 
wait? Can’t he simply be imprisoned or executed, or something?” 

“The political situation on Trantor, Sire, is delicate — ” 

“It is always delicate. When have you told me that it is anything but 
delicate?” 

76 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


“We live in delicate times, Sire. It would be useless to move strongly 
against him if that would but exacerbate the danger.” 

“I don’t like it. 1 may not be widely read. An Emperor doesn’t have the 
time to be widely read, but I know my Imperial history, at any rate. 
There have been a number of cases of these populists, as they call them, 
that have seized power in the last couple of centuries. In every case, they 
reduced the Emperor of the times to a figurehead. I do not wish to be a 
figurehead, Demerzel.” 

“It is unthinkable that you would be. Sire.” 

“It won’t be unthinkable if you do nothing.” 

“I am attempting to take measures. Sire, but cautious ones.” 

“There’s one at least who isn’t cautious. A month or so ago, a University 
professor, a professor, stopped a Joranumite riot single-handed. He 
stepped right in and put a stop to it.” 

“So he did. Sire. How did you come to hear of it?” 

“Because he is a professor I am interested in. How is it you didn’t speak 
to me of this?” 

Demerzel said, almost obsequiously, “Would it be right for me to trou- 
ble you with every insignificant detail that crosses my desk?” 

“Insignificant? This man who took action was Hari Seldon.” 

“That was indeed his name.” 

“And the name was a familiar one. Did he not present a paper, some 
years ago, that interested us?” 

“Yes, Sire?” 

Cleon looked pleased. “As you see, I do have a memory. I need not 
depend on my Ministers for everything. I interviewed him on the matter 
of his paper, did I not?” 

“Your memory is indeed flawless. Sire.” 

“What happened to his idea? It was a fortune-telling device. My flaw- 
less memory does not bring to mind what he called it.” 

“Psychohistory, Sire. It was not precisely a fortune-telling device, but 
a theory as to ways of predicting general trends in future human history.” 

“And what happened to it?” 

“Nothing, Sire. As I explained at the time, the idea turned out to be 
wholly impractical. It was a colorful idea, but a useless one.” 

“Yet he is capable of taking action to stop a riot. Would he have dared 
do this if he didn’t know in advance he would succeed? Isn’t that evidence 
that this — what — psychohistory is working?” 

“It is merely evidence that Hari Seldon is foolhardy. Sire. Even if the 
psychohistoric theory were practical, it would not have been able to yield 
results involving a single person or a single action.” 

“You’re not the mathematician, Demerzel. He is. I think it is time I 
questioned him again.” 

“It would be a useless — ” 

“Demerzel, I desire it. See to it.” 

“Yes, Sire.” 


FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


77 


16 . 


Raich was listening in an agonized impatience that he was trying not 
to show. He was sitting in an improvised cell deep in the warrens of 
Billibotton, having been passed along corridors he no longer remembered. 
{He, who in the old days could have threaded those same corridors uner- 
ringly and have lost any pursuer.) 

The man with him, clad in the green of the Joranumite Guards, was 
either a missionary, a brain-washer, or a kind of theologian-manque. At 
any rate, he had announced his name, Sander Nee, and was delivering 
a long message in a thick Dahlite accent that he had clearly learned by 
heart. 

“If the people of Dahl want to enjoy equality, they must show them- 
selves worthy of it. Good rule, quiet behavior, seemly pleasures, are all 
requirements. Aggressiveness, the bearing of knives, are the accusations 
others make against us to justify their intolerance. We must be clean in 
word and — ” 

Raich broke in. “I agree with you. Guardsman Nee, every word. — But 
I must see Mr. Joranum” 

Slowly, the Guardsman shook his head. “You can’t lessen you got some 
appointment, some permission.” 

“Look, I’m the son of an important professor at Streeling University, 
a mathematics professor.” 

“Don’t know no professor. — I thought you said you was from Dahl.” 

“Of course I am. Can’t you tell the way I talk.” 

“And you got an old man who’s a professor at a big University? That 
don’t sound likely.” 

“Well, he’s my foster father.” 

The guardsman absorbed that and shook his head. “You know anyone 
in Dahl?” 

“There’s Mother Rittah. She’ll know me.” (She had been very old when 
she had known him. She might be senile by now, or dead.) 

“Never heard of her.” 

(Who else? He had never known anyone likely to penetrate the dim 
consciousness of this man facing him. His best friend had been another 
youngster named Smoodgie — or at least that was the only name he knew 
him by. Even in his desperation, Raich could not see himself saying: Do 
you know someone my age named Smoodgie?) 

Finally, he said, “There’s Yugo Amaryl.” 

A dim spark seemed to light Nee’s eyes. “Who?” 

“Yugo Amaryl,” said Raich eagerly. “He works for my foster-father at 
the University.” 

“He a Dahlite, too? Everyone at the University Dahlites?” 

“Just he and I. He was a heat-sinker.” 

“What’s he doing at the University?” 

“My father took him out of the heat-sinks eight years ago.” 

ISAAC ASIMOV 


78 


“Well — I’ll send someone.” 

Raich had to wait. Even if he broke out, where would he go in the 
intricate corridors of Billibotton without being picked up instantly? He 
no longer had the map of it in his head. 

Twenty minutes passed before Nee returned and with him was the 
Corporal who had arrested him in the first place. Raich felt a little hope; 
the Corporal, at least, might conceivably have some brains. 

The Corporal said, “Who is this Dahlite you know?” 

“Yugo Amaryl, Corporal, a heat-sinker, whom my father found here 
in Dahl eight years ago and took with him.” 

“Why did he do that?” 

“My father thought Yugo could do more important things than heat- 
sink, Corporal.” 

“Like what.” 

“Mathematics. He — ” 

The Corporal held up his hand. “What heat-sink did he work in?” 

Raich thought a moment. “I was only a kid then, but it was at Tyrrell 
Two, I think.” 

“Close enough. Tyrrell Three.” 

“Then you know about him. Corporal?” 

“Not personally, but the story is famous in the heat-sinks and I’ve 
worked there, too. And maybe that’s how you’ve heard it. Have you any 
evidence that you really know Yugo Amaryl?” 

“Look. Let me tell you what I’d like to do.. I’m going to write down my 
name on a piece of paper, and my father’s name. Then I’m going to write 
down one word. If you can get in touch, any way you want, with some 
official in Mr. Joranum’s group — Mr. Joranum will be here in Dahl to- 
morrow — and just read him my name, my father’s name, and the one 
word. If nothing happens, then I’ll stay here till I rot, I suppose, but I 
don’t think nothing will happen. I think they will get me out of here in 
three seconds and you’ll get a promotion for passing along the infor- 
mation. If you refuse to do this, then, when they find out I am here, and 
they will, you will be in the deepest possible trouble. After all, if you 
know that Yugo Amaryl went off with a bigshot mathematician, Ju.st tell 
your.self that same bigshot mathematician is my father. His name is Hari 
Seldon.” 

The Corporal’s face showed clearly that the name was not unknown 
to him. 

He said, “What’s the one word you’re going to write down?” 

“Psychohistory.” 

The Corporal frowned. “What’s that?” 

“That doesn’t matter. Just pass it along and see what happens.” 

The Corporal handed him a small sheet of paper, torn out of a notebook. 
“All right. Write it down and we’ll see what happens.” 

Raich realized he was trembling. He wanted very much to know what 
would happen. It depended entirely on who it was that the Corporal 
would talk to, and what magic the word would carry with it. 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


79 


17 . 


Hari Seldon watched the raindrops form on the wrap-around windows 
of the Imperial ground-car and a sense of nostalgia stabbed at him un- 
bearably. 

It was only the second time in his eight years on Trantor that he had 
stepped out from under the Dome in order to visit the Emperor in the 
only open land on the planet, and both times the weather had been bad. 
The first time, shortly after he had arrived in Trantor, the bad weather 
had merely irritated him. He found it no novelty. His home world of 
Helicon had its share of storms, after all, particularly in the part in 
which he had been brought up. 

But now he had been for eight years in make-believe weather, in which 
storms consisted of computerized cloudiness at random intervals, with 
regular light rains during the sleeping times. Raging winds were re- 
placed by zephyrs, and there were no extremes of heat and cold — merely 
little changes that made you undo the ziplock in front of your shirt now 
and then, or throw on a light wrap now and then. And he had heard 
complaints about even so mild a deviation. 

But now there was real rain coming down drearily from a cold sky and 
he had not seen such a thing in years. And he loved it, that was the 
thing. It reminded him of Helicon, of young days, of relatively carefree 
days, and he wondered if he might persuade the driver to take the long 
way round. 

Impossible! The Emperor wanted to see him and it was a long enough 
trip by ground car, even if one went in a straight line, with no interfering 
traffic. The Emperor, of course, would not wait. 

It was a different Cleon from the one Seldon had seen eight years 
before. He had put on about ten pounds and there was a sulkiness about 
his face. 

Cleon I met him alone — not quite alone, however, for an Emperor is 
never alone. There were two soldiers stationed strategically against the 
wall, looking as though they had been carved from some cold plastic and 
each with his hand on what Seldon was sure was a loaded stun-gun. This 
was a routine precaution against any conspirator arriving in the guise 
of friendship. Of course, the Emperor had to trust the soldiers, and history 
had made it plain that that was not always safe, either. 

Seldon waited to be spoken to, and the Emperor said, in an ordinary 
voice, “Glad to see you. Professor. Let us dispense with formalities, as 
we did on the former occasion on which I met you.” 

“Yes, Sire,” said Seldon, stiffly. It was not always safe to be informal 
merely because the Emperor ordered you to be so in an effusive moment. 

Cleon I gestured imperceptibly, and there were those who might be 
unseen but who watched carefully for imperceptible gestures, and at once 
the room came alive with automation as the table set itself and as dishes 
began to appear. Seldon, confused, could not follow the details. 

The Emperor said, casually, “You will eat with me, Seldon.” 

ISAAC ASIMOV 


80 


It had the formal intonation of a question but the force, somehow, of 
an order. 

“I would be honored. Sire,” said Seldon. He looked about cautiously. 
He knew very well that one did not (or, at any rate, should not) ask 
questions of the Emperor, but he saw no way out of it. He said,, rather 
quietly, trying to make it not sound like a question, “The First Minister 
will not eat with us?” 

“He will not,” said Cleon. “He has other tasks on hand and I wish, in 
any case, to speak to you privately.” 

They ate quietly for a while, Cleon gazing at him fixedly and Seldon 
smiling tentatively. Cleon had no reputation for cruelty or even for ir- 
responsibility, but he could, in theory, have Seldon arrested on some 
vague charge and, if the Emperor wished to exert his influence, the case 
might never come to trial. It was always best to avoid notice and, at the 
moment, Seldon couldn’t manage it. 

Surely, it had been worse eight years ago, when he had been brought 
into the Presence under armed guard. — Seldon did not feel relieved, 
however. 

Then Cleon spoke. “Seldon,” he said. “The First Minister is of great 
use to me, yet I feel that, at times, people may think I do not have a 
mind of my own. Do you think that?” 

“Never, Sire,” said Seldon, calmly. No use protesting too much. 

“I don’t believe you. However, I do have a mind of my own and I recall 
that when you first came to Trantor you had this psychohistory thing 
you were playing with.” 

“I’m sure you also remember. Sire,” said Seldon, softly, “that I ex- 
plained at the time it was a mathematical amusement without practical 
application.” 

“So you said. Do you still say so?” 

“Yes, Sire.” 

“Have you been working on it since?” 

“On occasion, I amuse myself with it, but it comes to nothing. Chaos 
unfortunately interferes and predictability is not — ” 

The Emperor interrupted. “There is a specific problem I wish you to 
tackle. — Do help yourself to the dessert, Seldon. It is very good.” 

“What is the problem. Sire?” 

“This man, Joranum. Demerzel tells me, oh, so politely that I cannot 
arrest this man, and I cannot use armed force to crush his followers. He 
says it will simply make the situation worse.” 

“If the First Minister says so, I presume it is so.” 

“But I do not want to bother with this man, Joranum. I will not be his 
puppet. Demerzel does nothing.” 

“I am sure that is not so, and that he is doing what he can. Sire.” 

“If he is working to alleviate the problem, he certainly is not keeping 
me informed.” 

“That may be. Sire, out of a natural desire to keep you above the battle. 
The First Minister may feel that if Joranum should — if he should — ” 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


81 


‘Take over,” said Cleon, with a tone of infinite distaste. 

‘‘Yes, Sire. It would not then do to have it appear that you were per- 
sonally opposed to him. You must remain untouched for the sake of the 
stability of the Empire.” 

“I would much rather assure the stability of the Empire without Jor- 
anum. What do you suggest, Seldon?” 

“I, Sire?” 

“You, Seldon,” said Cleon, impatiently. “Let me say that I don’t believe 
you when you say that psychohistory is just a game. Demerzel stays 
friendly with you. Do you think I am an idiot not to know that? He expects 
something from you. He expects psychohistory from you, and since I am 
no fool, I expect it, too. — Seldon, are you for Joranum? The truth!” 

“No, Sire, I am not for him. I consider him an utter danger to the 
Empire.” 

“Very well, I believe you. You stopped a Joranumite riot at your 
University grounds single-handed, I understand.” 

“It was pure impulse on my part. Sire.” 

“Tell that to fools, not to me. You had it worked out by psychohistory.” 

"Sire!’’ 

“Don’t protest. What are you doing about Joranum? You must be doing 
something if you are on the side of the Empire.” 

“Sire,” said Seldon, cautiously, uncertain as to how much the Emperor 
knew. “I have sent my son to meet with Joranum in the Dahl sector.” 

“Why?” 

“My son is a Dahlite, and shrewd. He may discover something of use 
to us.” 

“May?” 

“Only may. Sire.” 

“You’ll keep me informed?” 

“Yes, Sire.” 

“And, Seldon, do not tell me that psychohistory is just a game; that it 
does not exist. I do not want to hear that. I expect you to do something. 

. I will not have it otherwise. You may go.” 

Seldon returned to Streeling in a far grimmer mood than he had left. 
Cleon had sounded as though he would not accept failure. 

It all depended on Raich now. 


18 . 

Raich sat in the anteroom of a public building in Dahl into which he 
had never ventured, never could have ventured, as a ragamuffin child. 
He felt, in all truth, a little uneasy about it now, as though he had found 
himself in a forbidden place. 

He tried to look calm, trustworthy, lovable. 

Dad had told him that that was a quality he carried about with him, 

82 ISAAC ASIMOV 


but he had never been conscious of it. If it came about naturally, he 
would probably spoil it by trying too hard to seem what he really was. 

He tried relaxing while keeping an eye on the official who was ma- 
nipulating a computer at the desk. He was not a Dahlite. He was, in fact. 
Gambol Been Namarti, who had been with Joranum at the meeting with 
Dad which Raich had attended. 

Every once in a while, Namarti would look up from his desk and glance 
at Raich out of an eye that seemed hostile. This Namarti wasn’t buying 
Raich’s lovability. Raich could see that. 

Raich did not try to meet hostility with a friendly smile. It would have 
seemed too artificial. He simply waited. He had gotten this far. If Jor- 
anum arrived, as he was expected to, Raich would have a chance to speak 
to him. 

Joranum did arrive, sweeping in, smiling out of a face that was clearly 
meant to be trustworthy and lovable. Namarti’s hand came up and Jor- 
anum stopped. They spoke together in a low voice while Raich watched 
intently and tried in vain to seem as if he wasn’t. It seemed plain to 
Raich that Namarti was arguing against the meeting and Raich bridled 
a bit at that. Why was Namarti so immune to Raich’s lovability? 

Then Joranum looked at Raich, smiled, and pushed Namarti to one 
side. It occurred to Raich that Namarti was the brains of the team but 
that it was Joranum who clearly had the charisma 

Joranum strode toward him and held out a plump, slightly moist hand. 
“Well, well. Professor Seldon’s young man. How are you?” 

“Fine. Thank you, sir.” 

“You had some trouble getting here, I understand.” 

“Not too much, sir.” , 

“And you’ve come with a message from your father, I trust. I hope he 
is reconsidering his decision and has decided to join me in my great 
crusade.” 

“I don’t think so, sir.” 

Joranum frowned slightly. “Are you here without his knowledge?” 

“No, sir. He sent me.” 

“I see. — Are you hungry, lad?” 

“Not at the moment, sir.” 

“Then would you mind if I eat? I don’t get much time for the ordinary 
amenities of life,” and he smiled broadly. 

“It’s all right with me, sir.” 

Joranum unwrapped a sandwich and took a bite. His voice slightly 
muffled, he said, “And why did he send you, son?” 

Raich shrugged. “I have the idea he thought I might find out something 
about you that he could use against you. He’s heart and soul with First 
Minister Demerzel.” 

“And you’re not?” 

“No, sir. I’m a Dahlite.” 

“I know you are, Mr. Seldon, but what does that mean?” 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


83 


“It means I’m oppressed so I’m on your side and I want to help you. 
Of course, I wouldn’t want my father to know.” 

“There’s no reason he should know. How do you propose to help me?” 
He glanced quickly at Namarti, who was leaning against his desk, lis- 
tening, with his arms folded and his expression lowering. “Do you know 
anything about psychohistory?” 

“No, sir. My father don’t talk to me about that, and if he did, I wouldn’t 
get it. I don’t think he’s getting anywhere with that stuff.” 

“Are you sure?” 

“Sure I’m sure. There’s a guy there, Yugo Amaryl, also a Dahlite, who 
talks about it sometimes. I’m sure nothing is happening.” 

“Ah! And can I see Yugo Amaryl some time, do you suppose?” 

“I don’t think so. He ain’t much for Demerzel but he’s all for my father. 
He wouldn’t cross him.” 

“But you would?” 

Raich looked unhappy and he muttered, stubbornly, “I’m a Dahlite.” 

Joranum cleared his throat. “Then let me ask you again. How do you 
propose to help me, young man?” 

“I’ve got something I can tell you that maybe you won’t believe.” 

“Indeed? Try me. If I don’t believe it, I will tell you so.” 

“It’s about First Minster Eto Demerzel.” 

“Well?” 

Raich looked about uneasily. “Can anyone hear me?” 

“Just Namarti and myself.” 

“All right, then, listen. This guy Demerzel ain’t a guy. He’s a robot.” 

“What!” exploded Joranum. 

Raich felt moved to explain. “A robot is a mechanical man, sir. He 
ain’t human. He’s a machine.” 

Namarti broke out passionately, “Jojo, don’t believe that. It’s ridicu- 
lous.” 

But Joranum held up an admonitory hand. His eyes were gleaming. 
“Why do you say that?” 

“My father was in Mycogen once. He told me all about it. In Mycogen, 
they talk about robots a lot.” 

“Yes, I know. At least I have heard so.” 

“The Mycogenians believe that robots were once very common among 
their ancestors, but they were wiped out.” 

Namarti’s eyes narrowed and he put in, “But what makes you think 
that Demerzel is a robot? From what little I have heard of these fantasies, 
robots are made out of metal, aren’t they?” 

“That’s so,” said Raich, earnestly. “But what I heard is that there were 
a few robots that look just like human beings and they live forever — ” 

Namarti shook his head violently, “Legends! Ridiculous legends! Jojo, 
why are we listening — ” 

But Joranum was shaking his head. “No, G.D. I want to listen. I’ve 
heard these legends, too.” 

“But it’s nonsense, Jojo.” 


84 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


“Don’t be in such a rush to say ‘Nonsense.’ And even if it were, people 
dine out on nonsense and live and die by it. It’s not what is so much as 
what people think is. — Tell me, young man, putting legends to one side, 
what makes you think Demerzel is a robot? Let’s suppose that robots 
exist. What is it, then, about Demerzel that makes you say he is a robot? 
Did he tell you so?” 

“No, sir,” said Raich. 

“Did your father tell you so?” asked Joranum. 

“No, sir. It’s just my own idea, but I’m sure of it.” 

“Why? What makes you so sure?” 

“It’s just something about him. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t get older. 
He doesn’t show emotions. Something about him looks like he’s made of 
metal.” 

Joranum sat back in his chair and looked at Raich for an extended 
time. It was almost possible to hear his thoughts buzzing. 

Finally, he said, “Suppose he is a robot, young man. Why should you 
care? Does it matter to you?” 

“Of course, it matters to me,” said Raich. “I’m a human being. I don’t 
want no robot in charge of me and running the Empire.” 

Joranum turned to Namarti with a gesture of eager approval. “Do you 
hear that, G.D. ‘I’m a human being. I don’t want no robot in charge of 
me and running the Empire.’ Put him on holovision and have him say 
it. Have him repeat it over and over till it’s drummed into every person 
on Trantor — ” 

“Hey,” said Raich, finally catching his breath. “I can’t say that on 
holovision. I can’t let my father find out — ” 

“No, of course not,” said Joranum quickly. “We couldn’t allow that. 
We’ll just use the words. We’ll find some other Dahlite. Someone from 
each of the sectors, each in his dialect, but always the same burden. I 
don’t want no robot in charge of me and running the Empire.” 

Namarti said, “And what happens when Demerzel proves he’s not a 
robot?” 

“Really,” said Joranum. “How will he do that? It would be impossible 
for him to do so. Psychologically impossible. What? The great Demerzel, 
the power behind the throne, the man who has twitched the strings 
attached to Cleon I all his years on the throne and those attached to 
Cleon’s father before him. Will he climb down now and whine to the 
public that he is, too, a human being? That would be almost as destructive 
to him as being a robot. G.D., we have the villain in a no-win situation 
and we owe it all to this fine young man here.” 

Raich flushed. 

Joranum said, “Raich is your name, isn’t it? Once our party is in a 
position to do so, we won’t forget. Dahl will be well-treated and you will 
have a good position with us. You’re going to be Dahl’s section-leader 
some day, Raich, and you’re not going to regret you’ve done this. Are 
you, now?” 

“Not on your life,” said Raich, fervently. 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


85 


“In that case, we’ll see you get back to your father. You let him know 
that we intend him no harm, that we value him greatly. You can tell 
him you found that out in any way you please. And if you find out 
anything else you think we might be able to use — about psychohistory, 
in particular, you let us know.” 

“You bet. But do you mean it when you say you’ll see to it that Dahl 
gets some breaks?” 

“Absolutely. Equality of sectors, my boy. Equality of worlds. We’ll have 
a new Empire with all the old villainies of privilege and inequality wiped 
out.” 

And Raich nodded his head vigorously. “That’s what I want.” 


19. 

Cleon I, Emperor of the Galaxy, was walking hurriedly through the 
arcade that led from his private quarters to the offices of the rather 
tremendous staff that lived in the various annexes of a palace that served 
as the nerve center of the Empire. 

Several of his personal attaches walked after him with looks of the 
deepest concern on their faces. The Emperor did not walk to others. He 
summoned them and they came to him. If he did walk, he never showed 
signs of haste or emotional trauma. How could he? He was the Emperor 
and, as such, far more a symbol of all the worlds than a human being. 

Yet now, he seemed a human being. He motioned aside those whom 
he met with an impatient wave of his right hand. In his left hand, he 
held a gleaming hologram. 

“The First Minister,” he said, in an almost strangled voice, not at all 
like the carefully cultivated tones he had painstakingly assumed along 
with the Throne. “Where is he?” 

And all the high functionaries of the State who were in his way fumbled 
and gasped and found it impossible to manage coherence. He brushed 
past them angrily, making them all feel, undoubtedly, as though they 
were living through a waking nightmare. 

Finally, he burst into Demerzel’s private office, panting slightly, and 
shouted, literally shouted, "DemerzeU” 

Demerzel looked up with a trace of surprise and rose smoothly to his 
feet, for one did not sit in the presence of the Emperor unless specifically 
invited to. “Sire?” he said. 

And the Emperor slammed the hologram down on Demerzel’s desk, 
and said, “What is this? Will you tell me that?” 

Demerzel looked at what the Emperor had given him. It was a beautiful 
hologram, sharp and alive. One could almost hear the little boy — perhaps 
ten years old — speaking the words that were included in the caption, 
“I don’t want no robot in charge of me and running the Empire.” 

Demerzel said, quietly, “Sire, I have received this, too.” 

“And who else has?” 


86 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


“I am under the impression, Sire, that it is a flier that is being widely 
spread over Trantor.” 

“Yes, and do you see the person at whom that brat is looking?” He 
tapped his Imperial forefinger at it. “Isn’t that you?” 

“The resemblance is striking. Sire.” 

“Am I wrong in supposing that the whole intent of this — flier, as you 
call it, is to accuse you of being a robot?” 

“That does seem to be its intention. Sire.” 

“And stop me if I’m wrong, but aren’t robots the legendary mechanical 
human beings one finds in — in thrillers and children’s stories?” 

“The Mycogenians have it as an article of faith. Sire, that robots — ” 

“I’m not interested in the Mycogenians and their articles of faith. Why 
are they accusing you of being a robot?” 

“Merely a metaphorical point. I’m sure. Sire. They wish to portray me 
as a man of no heart, whose views are the conscienceless calculations of 
a machine.” 

“That’s too subtle, Demerzel. I’m no fool.” He tapped the hologram 
again. “They’re trying to make people believe you are really a robot.” 

“We can scarcely prevent it. Sire, if people choose to believe that.” 

“We cannot afford it. It detracts from the dignity of your office. Worse 
than that, it detracts from the dignity of the Emperor. The implication 
is that I — I would choose as my First Minister a mechanical man. That 
is impossible to endure. See here, Demerzel, isn’t there some law on the 
books that forbids the denigration of public officers of the Empire?” 

“Yes, there are, and quite severe ones. Sire, dating back to the great 
law codes of Aburamis.” 

“And to denigrate the Emperor himself is a capital offense, is it not?” 

“Death is the punishment. Sire. Yes.” 

“Well, this not only denigrates you, it denigrates me, and whoever did 
it should be executed forthwith. It was this Joranum, of course, who is 
behind it.” 

“Undoubtedly, Sire, but proving it might be rather difficult.” 

“Nonsense! I have proof enough! I want an execution.” 

“The trouble is. Sire, that the laws of denigration are virtually never 
enforced. Not in this century, certainly.” 

“And that is why society is becoming so unstable and the Empire is 
being shaken to its roots. The laws are still on the books, so enforce 
them.” 

Demerzel said, “Consider, Sire, if that would be wise. It would make 
you appear a tyrant and a despot. Your rule has been a most successful 
one through kindness and mildness — ” 

“Yes, and you see what it gets me. Let’s have them fear me for a change 
rather than love me — in this fashion!” 

“I strongly recommend that you not do so. Sire. It may be a spark that 
will start a rebellion.” 

“What would you do, then? Go before the people and say, ‘Look at me. 
I am no robot.’ ” 


FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


87 


“No, Sire, for as you say that would destroy my dignity and, worse yet, 
yours.” 

“Then?” 

“I am not certain. Sire. I have not yet thought it through.” 

“Not yet thought it through? — Get in touch with Seldon.” 

“Sire?” 

“What is there that is difficult to understand about my order? Get in 
touch with Seldon.” 

“You wish me to summon him to the Palace, Sire?” 

“No, there’s no time for that. I presume you can set up a sealed com- 
munication line between us that cannot be tapped.” 

“Certainly, Sire.” 

“Then do so. Now!” 


20. 

Seldon lacked Demerzel’s self-possession, being, as he was, only flesh 
and blood. The summons to his office and the sudden faint glow and 
tingle of the scrambler field was indication enough that something un- 
usual was taking place. He had spoken by sealed lines before but never 
to the full extent of Imperial security. 

He expected some government official to clear the way for Demerzel 
himself. Considering the slowly mounting tumult of the robot flier, he 
could expect nothing less. 

But he did not expect anything more, either, and when the image of 
the Emperor himself, with the faint glitter of the scramble-field outlining 
him, stepped into his office (so to speak), Seldon fell back in his seat, 
mouth open, and could make only ineffectual attempts to rise. 

Cleon motioned him impatiently to keep his seat. “You must know 
what’s going on, Seldon.” 

“Do you mean about the robot flier. Sire?” 

“That’s exactly what I mean. What’s to be done?” 

Seldon, despite the permission to remain seated, finally rose. “There’s 
more. Sire. Joranum is organizing rallies all over Trantor on the robot 
issue. At least that’s what I hear on the newscasts.” 

“It hasn’t reached me yet. Of course not. Why should the Emperor 
know what is going on?” 

“It is not for the Emperor to be concerned. Sire. I’m sure that the First 
Minister — ” 

“The First Minister will do nothing, not even keep me informed. I turn 
to you and your psychohistory. Tell me what to do.” 

“Sire?” 

“I’m not going to play your game, Seldon. You’ve been working on 
psychohistory for eight years. The First Minister tells me I must not 
take legal action against Joranum. What, then, do 1 do?” 

Seldon stuttered. “S-sire! Nothing!” 


88 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


“You have nothing to tell me?” 

“No, Sire. That is not what I mean. I mean you must do nothing. 
Nothing! The First Minister is quite right if he tells you that you must 
not take legal action. It will make things worse.” 

“Very well. What will make things better?” 

“For you to do nothing. For the First Minister to do nothing. For the 
government to allow Joranum to do just as he pleases.” 

“How will that help?” 

And Seldon said, trying to suppress the note of desperation in his voice, 
‘That will soon be seen.” 

The Emperor seemed to deflate suddenly, as though all the anger and 
indignation had been drawn out of him. He said, “Ah! I understand! You 
have the situation well in hand!” 

“Sire! I have not said that — ” 

“You need not say. I have heard enough. You have the situation well 
in hand, but I want results. I still have the armed forces. They will be 
loyal and, if it comes to actual disorders, I will not hesitate. But I will 
give you your chance first.” 

His image flashed out and Seldon sat there, simply staring at where 
the image had been. 

Ever since the first unhappy moment when he had mentioned psy- 
chohistory at the Decennial Congress eight years before, he had had to 
face the fact that he didn’t have what he had incautiously talked about. 

All he had was the wild ghost of some thoughts, and what Yugo Amaryl 
called intuition. 


21. 

In two days, Joranum had swept Tranter, partly by himself, mostly 
through his lieutenants. As Seldon muttered to Venabili, it was a cam- 
paign that had all the marks of military efficiency. “He was born to be 
a War Admiral in the old days,” he said. “He’s wasted on politics.” 

And Venabili said, “Wasted? At this rate, he’s going to make himself 
First Minister in a week, and, if he wishes. Emperor in two weeks. There 
are reports that some of the military garrisons are cheering him.” 

Seldon shook his head. “It will collapse. Dors.” 

“What? Joranum’s party, or the Empire?” 

“Joranum’s party. The story of the robot has created an instant stir, 
especially with the effective use of that flier, but a little thought, a little 
coolness, and the public will see it for the ridiculous accusation it is.” 

“But, Hari,” said Venabili tightly, “You needn’t pretend with me. It 
is not a ridiculous story. How could Joranum possibly have got on to the 
fact that Demerzel is a robot?” 

“Oh, that\ Why, Raich told him so.” 

“Raich!” 

“That’s right. He did his job perfectly, and got back safely with the 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 89 


promise of being made Dahl’s sector-leader someday. Of course, he was 
believed. I knew he would be.” 

“You mean you told Raich that Demerzel was a robot, and had him 
pass on the news to Joranum.” Venabili looked utterly horrified. 

“No, I couldn’t do that. You know I couldn’t tell Raich, or anyone, that 
Demerzel was a robot. I told Raich as firmly as I could that Demerzel 
was not a robot, and even that much was difficult. I spent two days with 
a splitting headache after that. But I did ask him to tell Joranum that 
he was. He is under the firm impression that he lied to Joranum.” 

“But why, Hari? Why?” 

“It’s not psychohistory. I’ll tell you that. Don’t you join the Emperor 
in thinking I’m a magician. I just wanted Joranum to believe that De- 
merzel was a robot. He’s a Mycogenian by birth so he was filled from 
youth with their tales of robots. Therefore, he was ready to believe and 
he was convinced that the public would believe with him.” 

“Well, won’t they?” 

“Not really. After the initial shock is over, they will realize that it’s 
madcap fiction; or they will think so. I’ve persuaded Demerzel that he 
must give a talk by subetheric holovision to be broadcast to key portions 
of the Empire, and to every point on 'Trantor. He is to talk about every- 
thing but the robot issue. There are enough crises, we all know, to fill 
such a talk. People will listen, and will hear nothing about robots. Then, 
at the end, he will be asked about the flier and he need not answer a 
v/ord. He need only laugh.” 

“Laugh? I’ve never known Demerzel to laugh. He almost never smiles.” 

“This time. Dors, he’ll laugh. It is the one thing that no one ever 
visualizes a robot doing. You’ve seen robots on holographic fantasies, 
haven’t you? They’re always pictured as literal-minded, unemotional, 
inhuman — That’s what people are sure to expect. So Demerzel need 
merely laugh. And on top of that — Do you remember Sunmaster Four- 
teen, the religious leader of Mycogen?” 

“Of course I do. Literal-minded, unemotional, inhuman. He’s never 
laughed, either.” 

“And he won’t this time. I’ve done a lot of work on this Joranum matter 
since I had that little set-to on the college campus. I know Joranum’s 
real name. I know where he was born, who his parents were, where he 
had his early training, and all of it, with documentary proofs, has gone 
to Sunmaster Fourteen. I don’t think Sunmaster likes Breakaways.” 

“But I thought you said you don’t wish to spark off bigotry.” 

“I’m not. If I had given the information to the holovision people, I 
would have, but I’ve given it to Sunmaster, where, after all, it belongs.” 

“And he’ll start off the bigotry.” 

“Of course he won’t. No one on Trantor would pay any attention to 
Sunmaster, whatever he might say.” 

“Then what’s the point?” 

“Well, that’s what we’ll see. Dors. I don’t have a psychohistorical anal- 

90 ISAAC ASIMOV 


ysis of the situation. I don’t even know if one is possible. I just hope that 
my judgment is right.” 


22. 

Eto Demerzel laughed. 

It was not the first time. He sat there, with Hari Seldon and Dors 
Venabili in a tap-free room and, every once in a while, at a signal from 
Hari, he would laugh. Sometimes, he leaned back and laughed uproar- 
iously, but Seldon shook his head. “That would never sound convincing.” 

So Demerzel smiled and then laughed with dignity, and Seldon made 
a face. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “Dors laughs with perfect natu- 
ralness.” 

“Not often,” said Venabili freezingly. “There’s not much to laugh at 
lately. Or ever, if you don’t get psychohistory to some point that satisfies 
you.” 

“Which may be never,” muttered Seldon, then, to Demerzel. “It’s no 
use trying to tell you funny stories. You get the point only intellectually. 
You will simply have to memorize the sound.” 

Venabili said, “Use a holographic laugh-track.” 

“No\ That would never be Demerzel. That’s a bunch of idiots being 
paid to yak. It’s not what I want. Try again, Demerzel.” 

Demerzel tried again until Seldon said, “All right, then, memorize that 
sound and reproduce it when you’re asked the question. You’ve got to 
look amused. You can’t make the sound of laughing, however proficient, 
with a grave face. Smile a little; just a little. Pull back the corner of your 
mouth. — Not bad. Can you make your eyes twinkle?” 

“What do you mean, twinkle,” said Venabili indignantly. “No one 
makes their eyes twinkle. That’s a metaphorical expression.” 

“No, it’s not,” said Seldon. ‘There’s the hint of tears in the eye — sadness, 
joy, surprise, whatever — and the reflection of light from that hint of fluid 
is what does it.” 

“Well, do you seriously expect Demerzel to produce tears?” 

And Demerzel said, matter-of-factly. “My eyes do produce tears for 
general cleansing; never in excess. Perhaps, though, if I imagine my eyes 
to be slightly irritated — ” 

“Try it,” said Seldon. “It can’t hurt.” 

And so it was that when the talk on world-wide holovision was over, 
and the words were streaking out sub-etherically to millions of worlds 
at thousands of times the effective speed of light — words that were grave, 
matter-of-fact, informative, and without rhetorical ardor — and that dis- 
cussed everything but robots — Demerzel declared himself ready to an- 
swer questions. 

He did not have to wait long. The very first question was, “Mr. First 
Minister, are you a robot?” 

Demerzel simply stared calmly and let the tension build. Then he 

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 91 


smiled, his body shook slightly, and he laughed. It was not a loud, up- 
roarious laugh, but it was a rich one, the laugh of someone enjoying a 
moment of fantasy. It was infectious. The audience tittered and then 
laughed with him. 

Demerzel waited for that to die down and then said, “Must I really 
answer that? Is it necessary to do so?” He was still smiling as the screen 
darkened. 


23 . 

“I’m sure it worked,” said Seldon. “Naturally, we don’t have a complete 
overturn at once and instantly. It takes time. But it’s moving now in the 
right direction. I noticed that when I stopped Namarti’s talk at the 
University campus. The audience was with him until I faced him and 
showed spunk against odds. The audience began to change sides at once.” 

“Do you think this is an analogous situation?” said Dors Venabili, a 
little dubiously. 

“Of course. If I don’t have psychohistory, I can use analogy, and the 
brains I was bom with, I suppose. There was the First Minister, belea- 
guered on all sides with the accusation, and he faced it down with a 
smile and a laugh, the most non-robot thing he could have done, so that 
in itself was an answer to the question. Of course, sympathy began to 
slide to his side. Nothing would stop that. But that’s only the beginning. 
We have to wait for Sunmaster Fourteen and hear what he has to say.” 

“Are you confident there, too?” 

“Absolutely.” 


24 . 

Tennis was not a Heliconian game and Hari Seldon had never played 
it. He controlled his impatience, therefore, and watched with interest as 
the Emperor Cleon I, dressed in sports-fashion, loped over the court to 
return the ball. 

It was Imperial tennis, actually, so-called because it was a favorite of 
Emperors, a version of the game in which a computerized racket was 
used that could alter its angle slightly with appropriate pressures on the 
handle. Dors Venabili had once tried to show Seldon how it worked and 
had even pressed the racket into his hands and had him return a ball. 
Seldon found it impossible to control. 

It clearly took a deal of training. 

Cleon placed the ball in a non-returnable position and won the game. 
He trotted off the court to the careful applause of the functionaries who 
were watching, and Seldon said to him, “Congratulations, Sire. You 
played a marvelous game.” 

92 


ISAAC ASIMOV 


Cleon said indifferently, “Do you think so, Seldon? They’re all careful 
to let me win. I get no pleasure out of it.” 

Seldon said, “In that case. Sire, you might order your opponents to 
play harder.” 

“It wouldn’t help. They’d be careful to lose anyway. And if they did 
win, I would get even less pleasure out of losing than out of winning 
meaninglessly. Being an Emperor has its woes, Seldon. Joranum would 
have found that out if he had ever succeeded in becoming one.” 

He disappeared into his private shower facility and emerged in due 
time, scrubbed and dried and dressed rather more formally. 

“And now, Seldon,” he said, waving all the others away, “the tennis 
court is as private a place as we can find and the weather is glorious, so 
let us not go indoors. I have read the Mycogenian message of this Sun- 
master Fourteen. Will it do?” 

“Entirely, Sire. As you have read, Joranum was denounced as a ren- 
egade Mycogenian and is accused of blasphemy in the strongest terms.” 

“And does that finish him?” 

“It diminishes his importance fatally. Sire. There are few who accept 
the mad story of the First Minister’s robothood now. Furthermore, Jor- 
anum is revealed as a liar and a poser, and, worse, one who was caught 
at it.” 

“Caught at it, yes,” said Cleon, thoughtfully. “You mean that merely 
to be underhanded is to be sly and that may be admirable, while to be 
caught is to be stupid and that is never admirable.” 

“You put it succinctly, Sire.” 

“Then Joranum is no longer a danger.” 

“We can’t be certain of that, Sire. He may recover even now. He still 
has an organization, and some of his followers will remain loyal. History 
yields examples of men and women who have come back after disasters 
as great as this one, or greater.” 

“In that case, let us execute him, Seldon.” 

Seldon shook his head. “That would be inadvisable, Sire. You would 
not want to create a martyr, or make yourself appear a despot.” 

Cleon frowned. “Now you sound like Demerzel. Whenever I wished to 
take forceful action, he would mutter ‘despot.’ There have been Emperors 
before me who have taken forceful action and who have been admired 
as a result and have been considered strong and decisive.” 

“Undoubtedly, Sire, but we live in troubled times. Nor is execution 
necessary. You can accomplish your purpose in a way that will make you 
seem enlightened and benevolent.” 

“Seem enlightened?” 

“Be enlightened, Sire. I misspoke. To execute Joranum would be to 
take revenge, which might be regarded as ignoble. As Emperor, however, 
you have a kindly, even paternal, attitude toward the beliefs of all your 
people. You make no distinctions, for you are the Emperor of all alike.” 

“What is it you’re saying?” 

“I mean. Sire, that Joranum has offended the sensibilities of the My- 

FORWARO THE FOUNDATION 93 


cogenians and you are horrified at his sacrilege, he having been born 
one of them. What better can you do but hand Joranum over to the 
Mycogenians and allow them to dispose of him? You will be applauded 
for your proper Imperial concern.” 

“And the Mycogenians will execute him, then?” 

“They may. Sire. Their laws against blasphemy are excessively severe. 
At best, they will imprison him for life at hard labor.” 

Cleon smiled. “Very good. I get the credit for humanity and tolerance, 
and they do the dirty work.” 

“They would. Sire, if you actually handed Joranum over to them. That 
would, however, still create a martyr.” 

“Now you’ve confused me. What would you have me do?” 

“Give Joranum the choice. Say that your regard for the welfare of all 
the people in your Empire urges you to hand him over to the Mycogenians 
for trial, but that your humanity fears the Mycogenians may be too 
severe. Therefore, as an alternative, he may choose to be sent to Nishaya, 
the small and secluded world from which he claimed to have come, there 
to live a life of obscurity and peace. You’ll see to it that he’s kept under 
guard, of course.” 

“And that will take care of things?” 

“Certainly. Joranum would be committing virtual suicide if he chose 
to be returned to My cogen and he doesn’t strike me as the suicidal type. 
He will certainly choose Nishaya, and though that is the sensible course 
of action, it is also an unheroic one. As a refugee in Nishaya, he can 
scarcely lead any movement designed to take over the Empire. His fol- 
lowing is sure to disintegrate. They could follow a martyr with holy zeal, 
but it would be difficult indeed to follow a coward.” 

“Astonishing! How did you manage all this, Seldon?” There was a 
distinct note of admiration in his voice. 

Seldon said, “Well, it seemed reasonable to suppose — ” 

“Never mind,” said Cleon, abruptly. “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me the 
truth, or that I would understand you if you did, but I’ll tell you this 
much. Demerzel is leaving office. This last crisis has proved too much 
for him and I agree with him that it is time for him to retire. But I can’t 
do without a First Minister, and, from this moment, you are he.” 

“Sire!” said Seldon in mingled astonishment and horror. 

“First Minister,” said Cleon calmly. “The Emperor wishes it.” 


25. 

“Don’t be alarmed,” said Demerzel. “It was my suggestion. I’ve been 
here too long and the succession of crises has reached the point where 
the consideration of the Three Laws paralyzes me. You are the logical 
successor.” 

“I am not the logical successor,” said Seldon hotly. “What do I know 

94 ISAAC ASIMOV 


about running an Empire? The Emperor is foolish enough to believe that 
I solved this crisis by psychohistory. Of course, I didn’t.” 

“That doesn’t matter, Hari. If he believes you have the psychohistorical 
answer, he will follow you eagerly and that will make you a good First 
Minister.” 

“He may follow me straight into destruction.” 

“I feel that your good sense, or intuition, will keep you on target, with 
or without psychohistory.” 

“But what will I do without you — Daneel.” 

“Thank you for calling me that. I am Demerzel no more, only Daneel. 
As to what you will do without me — Suppose you try to put into practice 
some of Joranum’s ideas of equality and social justice. He may not have 
meant them; he may have used them only as ways of capturing allegiance; 
but they are not bad ideas in themselves. And find ways of having Raich 
help you in that. He clung to you against his own attraction to Joranum’s 
ideas, and he must feel torn, and half a traitor. Show him he isn’t. In 
addition, you can work all the harder on psychohistory, for the Emperor 
will be there with you, heart and soul.” 

“But what will you do, Daneel?” 

“I have other things in the Galaxy to which I must attend. There is 
still the Zeroth Law and I must labor for the good of humanity, insofar 
as I can determine what that might be. And Hari — ” 

“Yes, Daneel.” 

“You still have Dors.” 

Seldon nodded. “I still have Dors.” # 


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FORWARD THE FOUNDATION 


95 



A CHILD’S GARDEN 
OF GRAMMAR 

by Tom Disch 


NOUNS 


A Noun’s a Thing that has a Name. 

Thus, King’s a Noun (and so’s his Fame). 
The Queen’s a Noun; so too the Knave— 
(Yet Nouns are neither fair nor brave). 


You’re not a Noun, nor yet am I, 

But every Cloud is, in the Sky, 

And all our Thoughts (if they are clear)— 
But Nouns are never Pronouns, dear. 


ADJECTIVES 


Without us apples would be gray 
And pies would taste like modeling clay; 
The nights would go by in a haze. 

No darker or brighter than the days. 

When we are near, the sky is clear. 

The market bullish, stockings sheer. 

As jewels on a satin gown 
Are adjectives to any noun. 







PMNOUNS 

This is a pronoun: that is, too, 

And so am I, and so are you. 

But Pete is not, nor yet is Pat, 

And neither are their dog and cat. 

We may not make a lot of fuss. 

But each and every one of us 
Can do the work of any noun 
And still have time to fool around. 


IF/THEN 


If/Then is a wonderful machine. 

If you use soap, then you’ll be clean. 
If you do this. I’ll give you that. 

A wagging tail will earn a pat. 


MAYBE 


Maybe works another way: 

Maybe might come out and play— 
But maybe not, he cannot say. 

For Maybe’s acts are not his own: 

His life’s a die that’s never thrown, 

A Phantom jet that’s not been flown. 

Although he might, he might not, too: 
He could be me, he could be you. 



E BULL by Mike Resnick 

^OSE AT BAY 


Two of Mike Resnick’s most recent lAsfm 
publications, "Bwana" (January 1990) and 
"The Manamouki” (July 1990), are 
currently finalists 
Hugo award. His 
taie about the 
indomitable 
will also appear 
Alternate 
anthology (Tor, 

February 
i/Q 1992). 


Keddy Roosevelt 
In Mr. Resnick’s 
(i Presidents 


iGMAfT 



I don’t care what may be his politics, I don’t care what may be 
his religion, I don’t care what may be his color. I don’t care who he ' 
is. So long as he is honest, he shall be served by me. 

— ^Theodore Roosevelt 

Speech at Cooper Union Hall, 

New York, N.Y., October 15, 1886 

Personally I feel that it is exactly as much a “right” of women 
as of men to vote. I always favored woman’s suffrage, but only 
tepidly, until my association with women like Jane Addams and 
Frances Kellor changed me into a zealous instead of a lukewarm 
adherent to the cause. 

— ^Theodore Roosevelt 
Autobiography (1913) 


The date was October 27, 1916. 

It was a birthday party, but it resembled a wake. 

The president had invited only his family and a few close friends to 
his retreat at Sagamore Hill on this, his fifty-eighth birthday. He walked 
from room to room in the huge old mansion, greeting them, trying to joke 
with them, but unable to keep a dark scowl from periodically crossing his 
face. Even Alice, his oldest child, who had distracted her share of cabinet 
meetings and press conferences, seemed unable to distract him tonight. 

“Well?” demanded the president at last. 

“Well, what, Theodore?” asked his wife. 

“Why is everyone tiptoeing around me?” he demanded. “I’m not dead 
yet. There are worse things than taking an enforced vacation.” He 
paused. “Maybe I’ll go back to Africa again, or explore that river the 
Brazilian government has been asking me to map for them.” 

“What are you talking about, Mr. President?” said Elihu Root. “You’re 
going to spend the next four years in the White House.” 

“This isn’t a political rally, Elihu,” answered Roosevelt. “It’s a quiet 
party, and you’re among friends.” He sighed deeply. “You’ve seen the 
papers, you’ve heard what the pundits say: I’ll be lucky to win six states.” 

“I believe in you, Mr. President,” insisted Root. 

“You’re my Secretary of War,” said Roosevelt, managing one of his 
famous grins. “You’re supposed to believe in me.” The grin vanished, to 
be replaced by a frown. “I wish I could say the same of the Republican 
Party.” 

“They’re still angry at you for running and winning as a Bull Moose 
four years ago,” said Edith, standing in front of her husband and stroking 


THE BULL MOOSE AT BAY 


99 


his hair lovingly. “Some of them probably wish that fanatic who tried to 
shoot you in Milwaukee had been a better shot. But when they’re faced 
with a choice between you and Mr. Wilson, they’ll do what’s right.” 

Roosevelt shook his head. “If I can’t win the Congress to my cause, 
how can I expect to win the people?” He strode restlessly across the 
parlor. ‘The choice isn’t between me and Mr. Wilson; if it was that 
simple. I’d have no fear of the outcome. It’s a choice between their princi- 
ples and their prejudices, and given the splendid example of the Con- 
gress” — he spat out the word — “it would appear that their prejudices are 
going to win, hands down.” 

“I just can’t believe it,” said Gifford Pinchot. 

“Gifford, you’re a good man and a loyal man,” said Roosevelt, “and I 
thank you for the sentiment.” He paused. “But you’re my Director of 
National Parks, and trees don’t vote. What do you know about it?” 

“I know that you came into office as the most popular American since 
Abraham Lincoln — probably since Jefferson, in fact — and that you man- 
aged to win the war with Germany in less than a year. We’ve become a 
true world power, the economy’s never been stronger, and there aren’t 
any more trusts left to bust. How in God’s name can they vote you out 
of office? I simply refuse to believe the polls.” 

“Believe them, Gifford,” said Roosevelt. “You’ve got less than three 
months to find employment elsewhere.” 

“I’ve spoken to Hughes, and he thinks you’re going to win,” persisted 
Pinchot. 

“Charlie Hughes is my running mate. It’s in his best interest to believe 
we’re going to win.” Roosevelt paused. “That’s one thing I’m especially 
sorry about. Charlie is a good man, and he would have made an excellent 
president in 1920. A lot better than that fat fool from Ohio,” he added, 
grimacing at the thought of William Howard Taft, who had succeeded 
him the first time he had left office. 

“Speaking of Charlie,” said Root, surveying the room, “I don’t see him 
here tonight.” 

“This is a birthday party, for my friends and my family,” answered 
Roosevelt. “I’m sick of politicians.” 

“I’m a politician, Theodore,” said Root. 

“And if that’s all you were, you wouldn’t be here,” answered the pres- 
ident. 

“What about him?” asked Root, nodding toward a tall, well-dressed 
young man who seemed uncomfortable in his surroundings, and viewed 
the world through an elegant pince-nez. 

Roosevelt sighed. “He’s family.” 

“He’s also a Democrat.” 


100 


MIKE RESNICK 


“At least he’s still speaking to me,” said Roosevelt. “That’s more than 
I can say for a lot of Republicans.” 

“He’s too busy looking down his nose to speak to anyone,” commented 
Pinchot. 

“He’s young,” answered Roosevelt. “He’ll learn. And he’s got a good 
wife to teach him.” 

A tall, grizzled man clad in buckskins entered the room. Everyone 
stared at him for a moment, then went back to their drinks and conversa- 
tions, and he walked across the parlor to where the president was 
standing. 

“’Evening, Teddy,” said Frank McCoy. 

“Good evening, Frank,” said Roosevelt. “I’m glad you could come.” 

“Brought some of the stuff you asked me to hunt up,” said McCoy. 

“Oh?” 

McCoy nodded and pulled a wrinkled folder out of his rumpled jacket. 
“Two hundred thousand acres adjoining the Yellowstone, a couple of 
lakes, nice little river flowing through it, even got some buff and grizzly 
left, and yours for the asking.” 

“You don’t say?” replied Roosevelt, his eyes alight with interest. 

“And I found another one, out by Medora in the Dakota Bad Lands, 
right near where you used to own a ranch.” 

“Medora,” repeated Roosevelt, a wistful smile crossing his face. “It’s 
been a long time since I’ve thought of Medora.” He paused. “Stick around 
when the party is over, Frank. I’d like to go over these brochures with 
you.” 

“I won’t hear of it!” snapped Pinchot. “You’re going to be the president 
of the United States for four more years!” 

“So who says the president can’t own a ranch out near the Yel- 
lowstone?” asked McCoy. 

“You should be out campaigning for him, not finding retirement 
homes,” continued Pinchot angrily. 

“Gifford, I’ve always been a realist,” said Roosevelt. “I’m going to lose. 
It’s time to start planning the next phase of my life.” 

“I won’t hear of it!” said Pinchot. 

“I admire your loyalty, but I question your grasp of politics,” said 
Roosevelt gently. “The people will speak one week from today, and nei- 
ther you nor I are going to like what they have to say — but we’re going 
to have to abide by it, and I’m going to have to find something to do with 
myself” 

“But you’re right!” said Pinchot. “Can’t they see it?” 

“Evidently not,” answered Roosevelt. 

“If it wasn’t for that bastard Morgan . . .” began Root. 

“It isn’t J. P. Morgan’s fault,” said Roosevelt. “He’s opposed me for 

THE BULL MOOSE AT BAY 101 


years, and I’ve always beaten him. No, you can lay the blame for this at 
the doorstep of the Republican Party. They’re still bitter that I ran as a 
Bull Moose and beat Bill Taft — but they’re slitting their own throats to 
have their revenge on me, and I can’t seem to make them understand 
it.” He sighed again. “Or maybe it’s my own fault.” 

“You’re not backing off what you’ve been fighting for, are you, Teddy?” 
asked McCoy, arching a bushy" eyebrow. 

“No, of course not,” answered Roosevelt. “But obviously I didn’t get 
my message across to the people who count — to the voters.” 

“How could you?” asked Root, taking a drink from a liveried servant 
as he passed through the room with a large tray. ‘The Republicans own 
three-quarters of the newspapers, and the rest think that God speaks 
directly to Woodrow Wilson.” 

“I should have realized that it was in their best interest to oppose me 
and gone out on the stump and spoken to the people directly. I’ve done 
it often enough before.” The president shook his head. “What I can’t 
understand is why the Democrats didn’t grab this issue and wave it like 
a flag once the Republicans wouldn’t have anything to do with it.” 

Root snorted contemptuously. “Because they’re Democrats.” 

“And maybe they were afraid if they took it, they’d have to take you, 
too,” added McCoy with an amused grin. 

“It could turn their party around,” said Roosevelt seriously. He looked 
across the room at the tall, well-dressed young man who was carefully 
inserting a cigarette into its holder. “Look at my cousin,” he said, low- 
ering his voice. “An effete blue-blooded snob, who dabbles in politics the 
way some men dabble in stamps and coins. Yet if he came down on the 
right side of this single issue, he could be in the White House fifteen or 
twenty years from now.” 

“God forbid!” laughed Pinchot in mock horror. 

“Mark my words,” said Roosevelt. “This is an issue that isn’t going to 
go away. You and I may wind up in history’s ashcan, but not what we 
fought for. It’s as inevitable as the stars in their courses, and I can’t seem 
to make a single Republican senator or congressman see it!” 

An almost animal growl of anger came forth from the president’s lips, 
and Edith immediately approached him, bringing him a soft drink, 
straightening his tie, smoothing his hair. 

“You must try to control yourself, my dear,” she said soothingly. 

“What for?” demanded Roosevelt. “I thought I was supposed to be 
among friends tonight, not politicians. If a man can’t express disgust for 
the Congress to his friends, then who can he express it to?” 

“Please, Theodore,” said Edith. “You don’t want to make a scene.” 

“Why not?” he said irritably. “A president has the right to make a 
scene if he wants to.” 


102 


MIKE RESNICK 


Edith shrugged. “He’s all yours, gentlemen,” she said to Root, McCoy, 
and Pinchot. “I can’t do a thing with him when he’s like this.” 

She walked off to supervise the butler and servants. 

“What is everyone staring at?” demanded Roosevelt, for all talk had 
stopped when Edith had approached him. “Isn’t a beaten candidate al- 
lowed his tantrums?” 

“You’re not beaten yet. Father,” said Alice. 

Roosevelt shook his head impatiently. “Of course I am,” he said, ad- 
dressing the room at large. “But that’s not the issue. I’m not important. 
I’ve put in eleven years at this job. It’s time I moved on to other things: 
I’ve still got books to write and distant lands to see. The important thing 
is what’s going to happen to the country.” 'The president’s voice rose in 
anger. “You can’t simply disenfranchise 60 percent of it and expect things 
to run as they’ve always run.” 

“My cousin, the Samaritan,” muttered the tall man with the pince-nez 
and the cigarette holder, and a number of people around him chuckled 
in amusement. 

“Laugh all you want!” thundered Roosevelt. “That’s what the Congress 
did, too. You want to vote me out of office? Go ahead, that’s your right — if 
you happen to be a male of the Caucasian race.” He glared at them. 
“Doesn’t it bother you that more than half the people in this room can’t 
vote me out of office no matter how much they disagree with me?” 

“It bothers me, Cousin Theodore,” said a plain-looking woman who had 
been standing unobtrusively in a comer, reading some of the framed 
letters from other heads of state that were displayed on the wall. 

“Well, it ought to bother all of you,” said Roosevelt. “How can we build 
a country based on the principle that all men are created equal, and then 
refuse to give women the vote? We freed the slaves more than half a 
century ago — and we’ve erected so many barriers that more Negroes 
voted before the Civil War than vote now!” He paused. “How can I be 
president of all the people when six out of every ten of them can’t vote 
for me or against me?” 

“I believe we’ve heard this song before,” said one of the guests, a one- 
time hunting companion from the Rockies. 

“Well, I don’t believe you’ve heard a word of it!” snapped Roosevelt. 
“What makes someone an American, anyway?” 

“I don’t think I understand you,” said the hunter. 

“You heard me — what makes you an American?” 

“I ... ah . . .” 

“You were bom here and you’re breathing!” said Roosevelt. “Does 
anyone know of any other qualification?” He glared pugnaciously around 
the room. “All right, now. What do you think makes you better than any 
other American?” 


THE BULL MOOSE AT BAY 


103 


“I consider that an insulting question, Mr. President.” 

“You’d consider it a lot more insulting if you were a woman, or a Negro, 
or an immigrant who received his citizenship papers but can’t pass a 
literacy test at the polls — a test that nine out of ten college graduates 
couldn’t pass!” 

Roosevelt paused for breath. “Don’t any of you understand? We’re not 
living in a Utopia here. We haven’t reached a plateau of excellence from 
which we will never budge. America is a living, growing experiment in 
democracy, and sooner or later, whether you like it or not, women are 
going to get the vote, and Negroes are not going to be harassed at the 
polls, and immigrants are going to be welcomed into a political party.” 

“If it’s inevitable, why are you so worked up about it?” asked a distant 
relative. “Why did you let it cost you the presidency?” 

“He hasn’t lost anything!” snarled a younger man. “Those are fighting 
words! Step outside and — ” 

“He’s right,” interrupted Roosevelt. “It did cost me the election.” 

“But Mr. President — ” 

“That’s a fact,” continued Roosevelt. “And facts can be many things, 
pleasant and unpleasant, but the one thing they always are is true.” 

‘Then I repeat — why did you let it cost you the presidency?” 

“Because I believe in the principles of the Republican Party,” answered 
Roosevelt. 

“The Republicans voted almost ten-to-one against your proposals, and 
it took you six ballots to win the nomination once you decided to merge 
your Bull Moose party with them,” continued the man. “What makes 
you think this has anything to do with the Republican Party?” 

“Please!” said Edith, coming back into the parlor. “We didn’t invite 
you here to fight. This is supposed to be a birthday party.” 

“It’s all right, Edith,” said Roosevelt. “It’s a fair question; it deserves 
an answer.” He turned to his questioner. “I believe in the Republican 
Party,” he said, “and I tell you that the party will rise or fall on this 
single issue. It’s as simple as that.” 

“How can you say such a thing?” demanded the man incredulously. 

“How can you not see it?” retorted Roosevelt. “How can they not see it, 
those fools in the Congress? It’s only a matter of a few years, a 
decade at most, before women get the vote, before we stop harassing our 
minorities at the polls. Can’t anyone else see that the party that fights 
most vigorously for their rights will count them among their numbers? 
Can’t anyone else understand that an influx of voters greater than the 
number that already exist will totally change the balance of political 
power in this country?” He paused, and his chin jutted out pugnaciously. 
“No matter what you think, I haven’t been waging this war for my- 
self — though I pity the man who has to tell my Alice that she can’t vote 


104 


MIKE RESNICK 


for her father on election day. I’m waging it because it’s the right thing 
to do, whether I win or lose — and because if the Republicans don’t realize 
what the future holds, then sooner or later the Democrats will, and we 
will permanently become the nation’s minority party.” 

“Calm yourself, Theodore,” said Root, laying a hand on his shoulder. 
“We can’t have the president dying of a stroke a week before the 
election.” 

Roosevelt jumped at the touch of Root’s hand, then blinked his eyes 
rapidly, as if suddenly realizing his surroundings. “I’m sorry, Elihu,” he 
said. “The election is all but over, and here I am, still campaigning.” 

“It’s an issue worth campaigning for,” said the plain-looking woman. 

“The problem is that nobody who agrees with me is allowed to vote for 
me,” said Roosevelt with a wry smile. 

“That’s not so, Theodore,” said Pinchot. “7 agree with you.” 

“And I,” added Root. 

“Me, too, Teddy,” said McCoy. “You know that.” 

“That’s probably why none of you hold elected office,” remarked the 
president with dry irony. 

The party continued for another three hours, as still more relatives 
and old friends stopped by to pay their respects, and to see Roosevelt one 
last time while he was still the president of the United States. Politicians 
and Rough Riders, New York dandies and Indian chiefs, men of letters 
and men of action, black men and white, women of all political stripes, 
mingled and rubbed shoulders in the Sagamore Hill mansion, for the 
president had made many friends in his fifty-eight years. Even F. C. 
Selous had taken time off from a safari to cross the Atlantic and celebrate 
his most famous client’s birthday. Roosevelt, for his part, was soon so 
busy greeting guests that there were no more outbursts. 

At ten o’clock Edith had the servants bring out a case of champagne, 
which everyone except the president imbibed. Then came the cake, and 
a chorus of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” and then, one by one, the 
guests began departing. 

By midnight only a handful of people remained: Root, McCoy, Selous, 
two grizzled old Rough Riders, and the plain-looking woman. 

“I see your husband’s left without you again,” noted Roosevelt. 

“He had business to conduct,” replied the woman. “Politicians are just 
the opposite of flowers: they don’t bloom until the sun goes down.” 

Roosevelt chuckled. “You always did have a fine wit.” 

“Thank you.” 

“I’ll never know what perverse whim caused you to marry a Democrat,” 
he continued, “but I suppose he’s no worse than most and probably better 
than some. Grow him out and I imagine he’ll turn out all right.” 

“I plan to. Cousin Theodore.” She paused. “By the way, I fully agree 

THE BULL MOOSE AT BAY 105 


with what you said before. The party that reaches out to the disenfran- 
chised will dominate the next half century of American politics.” 

“I’m glad someone was listening,” said Roosevelt. 

“Listening and taking notes.” She smiled. “Well, mental notes, 
anyway.” 

“How about your husband?” said Roosevelt. “I’ve never asked be- 
fore — but what’s his position on enfranchisement?” 

“The same as yours.” 

“Really?” said Roosevelt, suddenly interested. “I didn’t know that.” 

“He doesn’t know it, either,” answered the plain-looking woman, “but 
he will when I get through speaking to him.” 

Roosevelt grinned. “You’re a remarkable woman. Cousin Eleanor.” 

She smiled back at him. “Why, thank you. Cousin Theodore.” 

“Play your cards right and you may be the second First Lady named 
Roosevelt.” 

“I plan to,” she assured him.# 


FROM: 

A CHILD’S GARDEN 
OF GRAMMAR 

VERBS 

Supposing a verb Could Verbalize 
The essence of its verbal being, 

This Is what a verb Would Do: 

It Would Rise 

Like bread dough fuii of yeast; 

It Would Fall 

Like dew; it Wouid Sail like the moon 
Across night skies; it Would Call 

Like a loon, and wolves Would Reply. 

It Would Fly, 

It Would Dance, 

It Would Flaunt, 

It Would Frown, 

But it never Would Think of Becoming a noun. 

It Would Sneer at the thought of Being Pinned down 
Like a man who Has never Left his home town 
To Feei the turbulent ebb and flow 
As cities’ miilions Come and Go. 

No active verb Can Stand to Stand stili. 

It Must Have action. Feel the thrill 
Of Using ail its verbai skili 
To Sink and Swim and Think vast thoughts 
And Tie itself in tangled knots. 

— Tom Disch 



"Books” is the author’s second tale 
for lAsfm. Her first, “The Goat Man,” 
appeared in our May 1989 issue. 
Since then, she’s had stories 
published in Space and Time, 
Pandora, and F&SF, and her 
juvenile fantasy novel, Otto from 
Otherwhere (Macmillan) was 
published in April 1990. Ms. 
Griffin is currently at work on 
a second children’s book and 
an adult time-travel novel. 



Susie staggered into my hospital room toward the end of visiting hours 
with her hands low and her head high, a double stack of paperbacks 
balanced between. “Hi,” she said. “I thought maybe you might like some- 
thing to read.” She eased her haul onto the floor by my bed, so that the 
top few were in easy reach. 

I thrust three chocolate boxes at her. “You’re a saint. Take these before 
I eat them.” 

Susie sat down to pick out all the cremes and eat them with impunity. 
When she showers, puddles form in her collarbones. Her clothes never 
seem to fit, no matter how carefully I help her shop. Her hair flies around 
her head like brown spiderwebs, too fine to do anything with. She keeps 
her eyes tucked away behind thick, thick glasses, and never appears to 
focus them on anything. 

I looked over the first few books in the stack. Murder at the Vicarage. 
Flowers for the Judge. The Fountain Pen Mystery. Easy to Kill. The smell 
of used paperback rose like incense in the sterile hospital atmosphere. 
My enforced roommate’s TV babbled and thundered. Susie and I talked 
about school, about the necessity of her finding someone else to share 
her apartment this semester, about cooking potatoes. The previous night, 
I discovered, she had tried to boil potatoes without putting water in the 
pot. I asked her for my Walkman, to shut out the TV. 

Visiting hours ended more quickly than she expected — she had, as 
usual, been late. As soon as she left I dove into the blessed stack. I hadn’t 
read anything not posted on a wall since my accident, and my brain was 
starving. Flowers for the Judge was a good story, though with a largely 
irrelevant title. Without pausing for breath I went straight into The 
Fountain Pen Mystery, which, according to the blurb, was “Harriet 
Vane’s” (whose?) “classic mystery; With an Afterword describing the 
Wilvercombe case.” Whatever. 

I’m not a devoted mystery fan, just a steady casual reader, so it wasn’t 
surprising that I hadn’t heard of Harriet Vane. Despite the dull title, 
she had produced a good puzzle mystery, literate, and with some claim 
to real characterization. The Afterword made me feel that I ought to be 
more familiar with the name, though. She had been involved in a no- 
torious murder trial, as the defendant, in the late twenties; and after- 
wards did some real-life detecting, the promised “Wilvercombe case,” in 
company with a titled detective whom she later married. Lord Peter 
Wimsey — dammit, I was sure I’d seen that name before! Still, I had too 
many books to read to puzzle over this one. I got all the way through 
Color Scheme before the nurse made me go to bed, and the moment I 
woke up I reached for the next in the stack. 

I started reading Gaudy Night over my tray of recycled eggs and oat- 
meal. I’d been a little afraid of tackling Dorothy L. Sayers up to now. 


108 


PENI R. GRIFFIN 


because she was reputed to be a real writer instead of a hack; and, as 
an English major, I read so many real writers that I want hacks when 
I relax. However, I’d be stuck here too long for a steady diet of intellectual 
junk food, and here the book was. 

Escapist literature read at speed fades quickly from my consciousness, 
and my head was thick with painkillers, so my slight feeling of recog- 
nition did not crystallize until the first textual mention of Lord Peter 
Wimsey. I stopped, stared at the name, and set aside my fork to reach 
for The Fountain Pen Mystery. Harriet Vane. Lord Peter Wimsey. A 
search of the indicia revealed no signs of the hoax. I would have to ask 
Susie where she’d gotten this. 

Reading furiously, I finished Gaudy Night shortly before visiting hours. 
When I closed it, I was breathless and dazed, as if the top of my head 
had been removed. For the first time. Dame Agatha had to make room 
for someone at the top of the mystery heap. 

Now that I knew so much about Harriet, the pastiche book was even 
more interesting. Again, more thoroughly, I searched it for clues, but the 
author had been dedicatedly self-effacing. The copyright boggled me. 
Surely you couldn’t hold a copyright under an assumed name? If she had 
gone to the lengths of legally adopting it, would she have stopped with 
one book? 

Susie brought my Walkman that day, but no tapes. My own fault for 
not asking specifically. “I’m sorry,” she said, in that vague manner which 
is next door to no apology at all. “I forgot. I’ll bring you some next time.” 

Normally I would have asked her what she expected me to do with a 
Walkman and no tapes, but I had more pressing interests just now. 
“Speaking of next time,” I said, picking up The Fountain Pen Mystery, 
“where’d you get this?” 

“Brock’s,” said Susie, producing an impossible answer with assurance. 
Brock’s used to be a used bookstore of remarkable proportions. The base- 
ment had a yellowed cardboard sign tacked over the stairwell, warning 
customers that books beyond that point had not been priced since fourteen 
years before the sign went up. When space grew too short, the proprietor 
just shoved boxes of books onto the sidewalk, free for the taking. At least, 
he had, before he had a stroke and decided he couldn’t handle the business 
anymore. 

“Brock’s has been closed for a couple of years now. Sue,” I said, pa- 
tiently. 

“Has it? It looked open to me.” 

“You must’ve mixed it up with Donaldson’s or Half-Price,” I suggested, 
naming some other good sources of ratty paperbacks. 

“I did not.” She got that stubborn set to her mouth. “Brock’s is the 
downtown one, right? A couple blocks from here?” 


BOOKS 


109 


“Yes, but it’s empty. Don’t you remember going and picking up as 
many bargains as we could during their going-out-of-business sale?” 

Susie frowned. “I guess so. Somebody else must’ve taken it over, then, 
because I got all these there.” 

That was at least possible. “Did you see any other books by Harriet 
Vane?” 

“I might have. They were all mixed up together.” 

“I want you to find me some more. Everything by this person, and by 
Dorothy L. Sayers. Don’t bankrupt yourself or anything,” I warned, 
knowing how hopeless she was with money. “I don’t have to have all of 
them right away. And I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.” 

‘That’s okay. Paperbacks are only fifty cents apiece.” 

“Nobody sells all paperbacks at fifty cents.” 

“I was there and you weren’t. They’re only fifty cents.” 

After a certain point, it’s best to give Susie her head. Sooner or later 
she’ll bang it against reality, look dazed for a minute, and start over, 
none the worse. I changed the subject, and told her about the Harriet 
Vane book. It took her a little while to get straight. “So Dorothy L. Sayers 
was writing about a real person?” 

“No, dear. This will turn out to be some fan of Sayers who sat down 
and wrote a book and put Harriet Vane’s name on it. For a joke. She did 
a real thorough job of it, too. This whole book is printed up just like it 
was the real thing, and it’s the twenty-seventh printing. Or says it is.” 

“Neat,” said Susie. 

Time hurried without, and dragged within, as my bones knitted and 
winter faded gradually into the boundless Texas spring. I was restless 
and irritable, saved chiefly by the interest of Susie’s visits — always bear- 
ing books. I chafed to get out of bed and visit her mysterious bookstore 
for myself, though Susie certainly did her best by me. She brought a 
dozen more Harriet Vanes, all the Peter Wimsey books, and some Ariadne 
Olivers. You may remember that Ariadne Oliver was Agatha Christie’s 
fictional surrogate, an untidy, apple-eating author of sensation novels. 
The books under her name were almost as good as Christie’s own; but 
the real author was as elusive as “Harriet Vane.” 

Pumping the bookstore owner through Susie proved both frustrating 
and pointless, since Susie lacks both curiosity and common sense, those 
prime tools of the researcher. “Jules doesn’t care if the authors are real 
or not,” she said. “He’s getting tired of my asking.” 

“Who’s Jules?” 

“I told you. The old man behind the counter. He says Harriet Vane’s 
just as real as Dorothy L. Sayers and can write books if she wants to.” 

‘That’s not helpful.” 


110 


PENI R. GRIFFIN 


“What difference does it make? Maybe you only thought those people 
were made up. Real people get put into books all the time.” 

“Not without libel suits or acknowledgements,” I said. “It’s just an 
elaborate hoax — like The Princess Bride, only more thorough.” 

“What hoax?” asked Susie. 

“Oh, God,” I moaned. “Susie, you’ve got the book. Take it out and look 
at it. It’s by William Goldman.” 

“It’s abridged by William Goldman. It’s by S. Morgenstem.” 

“S. Morgenstem is imaginary. 'Trust me. William Goldman’s abridge- 
ment is all there is.” 

“It is not! I’ve got an unabridged copy.” 

I didn’t know what to think of that, except that I knew better than to 
accept Susie’s word. “You’ve got it mixed up somewhere,” I said. “Bring 
it next time and let me look at it.” 

“You’ll see,” she sniffed haughtily. 

I don’t know if you’ve read The Princess Bride. It’s a tale of true love 
and high adventure surrounded by a frame story, in which the author 
tells all about his father reading this wonderful, exciting book to him. 
When he grew up, he learned that the author, S. Morgenstem, had not 
set out to write an adventure story. His father had made it into one by 
picking out the good parts from a morass of sociopolitical satire on S. 
Morgenstem’s home country. Florin. Of course, there is no country called 
Florin, and no S. Morgenstem. The only version you’ll ever see is Gold- 
man’s “good parts version.” 

The book Susie handed me next day had a plain blue binding, badly- 
worn, with white letters almost rubbed off the spine. The pages were 
gray and soft-edged. The Florinese- American Society and S. Morgenstem 
had copyrighted and published it in 1942, in accordance with wartime 
paper restrictions. It looked old. It felt old. It even smelled old. 

Susie pointed to the table of contents. “See? Unabridged.” 

Sure enough, the chapter about the queen of Florin packing to visit 
the queen of Guilder was in there. So was all the missing stuff about 
gathering the material for the Resurrection Pill; and miles of omitted 
parenthetical remarks about Morgenstern’s wife. William Goldman’s 
name was invisible. The effort that must have gone into this forgery was 
mindboggling, and I couldn’t see the point. No one was that dedicated 
a fan! I looked up at Susie suspiciously. “How much did you pay for this?” 

She wiggled. “Uh — a lot.” 

“How much?” 

“Fifty dollars. But I had to have it!” 

“That’s ridiculous!” 

“It is not! You know I’ll never see another one! I — ” 

“No, no, no! Fifty dollars is cheap for this! Way too cheap!” 


BOOKS 


111 


She blinked at me. 

“Making it look old must’ve cost more than that. And can you imagine 
the work involved in writing an acceptable pastiche? There’d be no profit 
in forging this and selling it for fifty dollars.” 

‘Then it can’t be a forgery, can it?” 

I lay back with a groan. 

“You want me to call the nurse?” 

“I’m fine. I feel better every day. I just don’t understand where the 
books you bring me are coming from. I don’t understand how you can 
pay a measly fifty dollars for a book like that. I don’t understand why 
the Sayers biography you brought me doesn’t mention this Harriet Vane 
imposter, and I don’t understand why this Jules person of yours doesn’t 
know anything about the books he’s selling. There must be something 
that you’re overlooking.” 

“I’ll take you to see for yourself just as soon as you get out,” she said 
plaintively. 

Poor Susie — she’d done everything in her power to make my hospital 
stay pleasanter. “Well,” I said, deliberately reining myself in, “it’s not 
like there’s nothing I can do. Could you bring me some paper and my 
portable typewriter, so I can write to the publishing companies? They’ve 
got to know something.” 

Most of the books were at least five years old, and the companies had 
had plenty of time to undergo name changes, mergers, and other trans- 
formations. I phoned the information desk in our library and found a 
sympathetic librarian, who went to a lot of trouble and supplied me with 
most of what I needed. While waiting for answers, I read yet more, pushed 
myself in physical therapy, and began mentally outlining a thesis on the 
subject of fan authors. 

The publishers replied unsatisfactorily after long lapses of time. With 
all the information I’d given them, not one had an employee willing or ' 
able to track down the real authors. Some of them denied that they had 
ever printed such books; none told me what I wanted to know. 

At last one day I walked out of the hospital, on my own two feet, and 
stood blinking at the sunlight. The Zeusian faces in the upper corners 
of the entryway frowned down at me, and I smiled back. Gladly I breathed 
in air untainted by antiseptic — just sunlight, traffic, river water, and 
warm cement. Longing to be on my own again, I had deliberately lied 
about my release date, and no one came to pick me up. I’d had Susie take 
home all but one or two books, and was setting out into the world bur- 
dened only with my overnight case. 

The San Antonio River, green and spangled, beckoned to me, but I 
walked straight past the steps toward Commerce Street. Half a block 
brought me in sight of the red brick building I wanted, squeezed between 


112 


PENI R. GRIFFIN 


a bank and a lunch counter, with its dead neon sign announcing suc- 
cinctly, “Books.” I walked faster, despite uncertain knees. Sunlight 
glared off the show windows, rendering them opaque. I waited at the 
corner for the walk sign. Glorious anticipation swelled in me as I hurried 
down the sidewalk — and collapsed as I stood before empty, dusty win- 
dows, still bearing patiently their burden of sale information. 

“Damn you, Susie,” I muttered. “How could you stay confused so long?” 

No point spoiling my day. I laid my disappointment firmly aside, and 
went in pursuit of the second thing I had promised myself — a cinnamon 
ice cream cone on the River. 

Susie was satisfactorily surprised when I showed up, weary and trium- 
phant, at our apartment some hours later. She was desultorily studying 
a CPR booklet on the couch, and leapt to her feet with a cry when she 
realized who was walking in on her. “I thought — you said — ” 

“I lied,” I said, hugging her before switching off the light and opening 
the curtains. “Why are you using electricity when the sun’s so bright 
out? I bet our utility bill is sky-high.” I collapsed into a bean bag chair, 
stretched my feet out, and relaxed all over. “It’s good to be home.” 

I watched Susie drift around the apartment fixing supper, and listened 
to her chatter, determined to keep my mind off unpleasant subjects; but 
the worries kept intruding. Susie had never found a satisfactory replace- 
ment roommate to cover my half of the rent. Hospital bills stretched 
interminably before me. I had totaled my car, and Susie had had to sell 
hers. Summer semester would cost so much. If Susie got a lifeguarding 
job (and why would anybody do anything so dangerous as to hire her? 
I’d tried to talk her into another line of summer work, but she held fast 
to this idea, for some reason), it would bring in this much, while living 
expenses would come to this other amount. Susie had clearly lived off 
rice and canned soup since Christmas; I would have to see she started 
eating right again. I finally had to attack her about the store, just to get 
my mind off money. 

“It beats me how you can get lost over a distance of a block and a half,” 
I said. 

“What? What did I do now?” 

“Brock’s is still empty.” 

“It is not! I was there just last week!” 

“It was empty today. That’s the first place I went.” 

“Then you got mixed up.” 

“I’m not the one who gets lost on the way to the grocery store.” 

“I only did that once — well, a couple of times. Look, I know I’m right. 
I’ll prove it to you tomorrow.” 

In fact it was three days later, what with one thing and another, that 
we took the number nine bus downtown. Susie led me confidently through 


BOOKS 


113 


the maze of streets, sidewalks, and river entrances. I followed with equal 
confidence, for she wasn’t taking the plain and simple route any person 
of sense would to get to Brock’s. I knew Susie wasn’t a person of sense; 
but I never thought that her nonsense could extend as far as it did. 

After a few unnecessary twists and turns we emerged from the river 
level shops on Commerce, and she headed me back toward Navarro. 
“See?” she said, triumphantly pointing at the sign. “Right there.” 

“But it’s empty — ” I began, and stopped. Once again the dusty windows 
displayed dusty books — not the encyclopedias and Texana that had been 
Mr. Brock’s showpieces, but intriguing ranks of worn, gilt-edged tomes; 
colorful boxes of paperbacks; and bewildering stacks of novels and text- 
books. 

“It beats me how you can get lost over a distance of a block and a half,” 
said Susie with pardonable smugness. 

“It was empty,” I said. The aroma of musty old books came out to meet 
us. “I stood right here and saw an empty store.” 

“Maybe it was hiding from you.” 

Our entrance touched off a jangle of tiny brass bells. The interior was 
oddly unfamiliar, but the essential feature of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceil- 
ing, books remained. A man like a chamois rag left balled in the sun to 
dry blinked over a book behind the counter. Rear windows I did not 
recognize laid dusty fingers of sunlight on the ranks of books behind 
him. He looked up, eyes red-rimmed, and smiled. “Bonjour, ma chere!” 
he croaked, as if his body could hold just enough air for life, with nothing 
left over for speech. “Is this your friend of the hospital?” 

“She got out three days ago,” said Susie. “She says she came here and 
couldn’t find you.” 

“I did,” I said. “Where were you?” 

“That’s not the question,” he said. His eyes were rather like 
Susie’s — opaque, kindly eyes that looked without seeing — or, at any rate, 
without seeing the same things others in the same vicinity saw. “The 
question is, where can you go?” 

“This is Jules,” said Susie. “I told him all about you.” 

I wasn’t sure, from the way he looked at me, that this was a good thing; 
but faint heart never won fair author, so I questioned him about the 
Vane/Oliver/Morgenstern mystery. Jules waved away my curiosity with 
a random Gallic hand. “What matter where they come from. Mademo- 
iselle? You have the books.” 

“But I don’t have the authors.” 

“The authors are irrelevant.” 

“Where did you get them?” 

“People bring them. We buy, sell, and trade.” 

Eventually I gave up and went to search the stacks myself The con- 

114 PENI R. GRIFFIN 


fusion was incredible. Not one book in ten was even in English. Beautiful, 
thick-paged books in ideograph — Japanese or Chinese, I couldn’t 
say — rubbed shoulders with battered editions of Nancy Drew; Hindu 
Kama Sutra with German Perry Rhodan; an Arabic math text with a 
Latin Winnie-the-Pooh. “How do you find anything here?” I asked Susie. 

“How do you not find things here?” she responded, not lifting her nose 
from a book on Disney animation. 

Ranks of paperbacks had accumulated near the back windows, and I 
set off to explore them. No doubt my head was still weak from the hos- 
pital, for the world of my peripheral vision seemed warped and elongated, 
but as long as I kept my eyes firmly fixed on my goal and walked straight 
towards it, I could reach it without serious discomfort or disorientation. 
I thought I had worked out the source of the general sensation of un- 
familiarity. Jules must have removed some interior partitions, making 
one huge crowded room out of two or three smaller ones. The windows 
would provide a view of a courtyard I had been in once or twice, where 
an enormous tomcat presided over a goldfish-stocked fountain. Light- 
headed, I stopped to take a breath and look out — onto a sunlit alley, lined 
with the backs of half-timbered houses. 

My mouth went dry, and my knees shook. I remembered that courtyard 
distinctly, and in any case there are no half-timbered houses in downtown 
San Antonio. I collapsed onto a box of Harlequin Romances, and gazed 
up the length of the store to the display windows. I should have seen the 
recently-renovated, brilliantly frilly Staacke Building across the street, 
and modern Americans of English and Mexican descent passing and 
repassing; instead, we were opposite a mosque, and men and women in 
mor^ or less unWestern robes walked by without a curious glance. The 
display windows, seen from behind, were broader than from in front, 
rimmed with leaded glass, and improbably far away. 

“Susie,” I croaked. My voice failed to carry. “Susie!” Jules did not look 
up from Claudine; Susie stuck her finger in the volume of poetry she was 
looking at and came over. 

“Find something?” 

I shook my head helplessly. 

Her eyes nearly focused on my face. “Are you okay?” 

Again I shook my head, and pointed at the display window. 

Rain poured down on a dim and unfamiliar street, where figures scur- 
ried by beneath umbrellas. “That’s funny; it wasn’t raining a minute 
ago,” said Susie; then looked down at the sunlight lying across her arms, 
and frowned. 

The bells jingled as a man in a spattered black robe and mortarboard 
entered, carefully shaking his umbrella. “Good morning, Jules,” he said. 


BOOKS 


115 


in a voice comprehensible only because we had seen so many Monty 
Python episodes. “Pestilential weather!” 

“You have a miserable climate,” agreed Jules. 

Susie looked out the back window at a broad vista of red tile roofs, 
leading down to a gray horizon stretched across startingly blue water. 
“I wonder why I never noticed any of this before.” 

“Because you never notice things.” The problem had sorted itself out 
in the back of my brain while I sat stunned. “You’ve been coming to an 
interdimensional bookstore for three months.” 

Susie absorbed and assimilated this without difficulty. “That explains 
everything.” 

“But what’s going to explain that?” 

“What difference does it make?” Her face shone. “You know, I bet all 
the books ever written anywhere are here!” 

‘There’s not enough room.” 

“How do you know?” 

She had me there. 

A young man in a Mao jacket, with thick rimless glasses, emerged 
from the basement carrying a stack of books and reading the top one. He 
made his way to the counter, where he and Jules conducted their business 
in what I suppose to have been Mandarin Chinese. Susie was smiling 
dreamily. “Wouldn’t you just love to have a summer job here?” 

“No openings,” said Jules over his shoulder. “Only one dealer at a 
time.” 

The Chinese man departed, still reading, into what I hope was a street 
in his home town. I stood up, new vistas opening before my mind’s eye 
even as the view from the rear window changed into a green yard where 
cherry trees bloomed above a stone wall. “Have you realized that this 
solves our problem?” 

“What problem?” 

“Our money problem.” 

“Oh. You know, we could do the most amazing research for papers 
here.” 

“Susie. Listen.” I took her shoulders and made her look me in the eye. 
“We take books we know don’t exist where we come from, okay? Things 
like The Fountain Pen Mystery. And we copy them. And we sell them to 
publishers. And we make money, because these are proven 
bestsellers — plenty enough money to finish school and pay off the hospital 
and eat decent meals.” The sudden cessation of sunlight interrupted me; 
I glanced up at rows of plastic igloos under a cold, dead sky, a geodesic 
dome like a huge chickenwire fence above us. I shivered and continued. 
“And then by the time we get out of school we’ll already have reputations. 


116 


PENI R. GRIFFIN 


We can go on and do whatever we want to and whatever happens, we’ll 
have the income from those books.” 

Susie thought a minute, the wheels visibly turning behind her lenses. 
“But that would be plagiarism.” 

“Technically, yes. But nobody’ll be the worse for it, and we’ll be a lot 
better.” 

“I don’t know — ” 

“I do. Trust me.” 

“Jules wouldn’t like it.” 

“Why should he care? He thinks authors are irrelevant.” 

“Well — let me think about it.” 

I knew she’d follow in my wake if I chugged ahead, so I left it at that 
and began methodically searching for appropriate and interesting books. 
I wondered if it might be possible to find Sherlock Holmes’s monograph 
on cigarette ash, or on the human ear — the market for that would be 
smallish, but reliable. The mass of books I had to wade through to find 
anything specifically useful was intimidating, but I already had enough 
Vanes and Olivers to set me up for awhile. I began the query letter in 
my head. 

Scenes flashed past the windows — no two alike; exotic, mundane, and 
incomprehensible by turns. Customers came in and out, each expressing 
intense absence of mind with every movement, whether dressed in saris 
or spacesuits. I wondered how many of them realized the nature of this 
place; how many had been wandering obliviously in and out for years. 
My case of the shakes was past, and I was rapidly adjusting — though, 
as the event proved, not rapidly enough. 

I began to be tired and hungry, so we took our selections to the counter. 
A slender man with pointed ears and a slightly greenish cast to his skin 
wrangled with Jules in an unfamiliar tongue over a couple of huge, 
odoriferous volumes. The customer was calm, but insistent; Jules, on the 
other hand, gesticulated wildly and jabbered with the full force of his 
Frenchness. 

‘That’s funny. Jules is usually pretty easy on pricing,” said Susie. “I 
wonder what that guy’s problem is.” 

Those books were more than musty; they smelled as if the pages had 
begun to rot. I tried to make out the faded gilt letters down the back, 
and read the name D’Erlette. “I don’t think it’s the price,” I said. “I think 
he just doesn’t want to sell the books. I bet that’s the Cultes des Goules, 
and probably the other is something equally nasty.” 

“The what?” 

“Didn’t you ever read Lovecraft?” 

“Uh — I don’t think so. He’s the one with all the tentacly monsters, 
isn’t he?” 


BOOKS 


117 


“Close enough. The Cultes des Goules is a grimoire of forbidden knowl- 
edge. People who read it usually go mad or something.” 

“Oh. I’m surprised Jules would stock something like that.” 

“He may not have much option. We don’t know what the rules are.” 

Jules stood up on the rungs of his high stool and put his face next to 
the customer’s, jabbing an emphatic wrinkled finger at his nose. An 
impassive reply only infuriated the dealer more. As his voice rose in yet 
shriller vociferation, I turned to study the snowy landscape beyond the 
display window, where dark androgynous figures shuffled to and fro. 
“How do we get home from here, Susie?” 

“I don’t know. I always just left.” She watched the progress of the 
dispute with benign, unself-conscious curiosity. “You know — I never 
wondered before. Jules knows the language of everybody that comes in 
here. Before when I heard him talking not-English, I just assumed it was 
Spanish, but that’s not Spanish, there. I wonder how he learned it.” 

“Maybe he taught himself off customers and out of books. Or maybe 
he’s immortal and — ” 

Jules’s tirade choked in mid-syllable, arrested by some inward con- 
vulsion. His face flushed nearly purple; his right hand seized his left 
arm; he slid off the stool and out of sight behind the counter. 

We all stood stupidly blinking; then the part of my mind that saved 
my life in the accident dragged my body into action. “Susie!” I snapped. 
“CPR! You’ve been studying CPR! Use it!” 

She shook herself, and climbed over the counter. I ran past the 
stranger’s blank gaze, past the familiar glass door, into the familiar 
sunny street, calling: “Heart attack!” 

More blank faces met me, so I crossed against the light, ran into the 
emergency clinic on the first floor of the hospital, leaned panting against 
the nurse’s window, and threw my message in her face. “Heart attack. 
Old man. In Brock’s.” 

“Brock?” 

“The old book store. On Commerce. My roommate’s giving him CPR.” 

My legs were boneless under me. I let the rapid routine of an emergency 
call rattle around me, my brain whirling in darkness as my mouth an- 
swered routine questions. I was too soon out of the hospital for this. 
Nonetheless, I walked on my own power to the scene as soon as my vision 
cleared. The ambulance was there, paramedics and a crowd in front of 
a locked and empty store. 

I stood, staring through the dusty glass at an empty room as the 
paramedics berated me for playing practical jokes. The door rattled in 
my hands. ‘'Susie?” I called, hoping my voice would pierce the dimen- 
sional barriers. “Susie, come out of there!” 


118 


PENI R. GRIFFIN 


It occurred to me that if I didn’t lie down, I would fall; which on 
pavement would be painful. Accordingly I lay down. 

That was a week ago. Now there are more doctor bills; in fact, I have 
narrowly escaped psychiatric care. Susie is nowhere to be found. If she 
were going to emerge from behind that door in Commerce Street, I expect 
she would have done it by now. I have written the story out like this, to 
put the facts in order, and the effort has not quite been vain. 

The hallucination theory, pressed on me so fervidly from all sides, will 
not hold water so long as I possess books by Harriet Vane, Ariadne 
Oliver, and S. Morgenstern. Thus I may, with confidence, dismiss all 
suggestions that we were attacked (in downtown San Antonio in broad 
daylight with no witnesses!) or suffered some other trauma too dreadful 
for me to face, for which my subconscious provided this substitute. No; 
I left Susie doing CPR on an old man in an interdimensional bookstore, 
and now I can’t get back to her. 

I suppose intense absence of mind is the entrance ticket to the place, 
and I may return someday if I ever find someone, like Susie, capable of 
leaving reality without noticing it. Meanwhile, I am here and she 
is — where? 

My hypothesis is that Jules died, and Susie took over the store. What 
benefits or responsibilities this position might carry, beyond unlimited 
access to unlimited books, I can only speculate. Perhaps it was the best 
thing for her. The notion of Susie going out and earning her own living 
has always been more or less absurd. She may be happy and useful there, 
in a way she never could in her native dimension. At any rate, I can hope 
so. 

As for me — nothing hinders me from putting my plan into action with 
the books in my possession, and the need for money is worse than ever 
before. I may or may not have overestimated public reaction, in my first 
enthusiasm for the plan, but it is a gamble worth a few weeks of typing. 
Only — every time I sit down to start, I am interrupted by the thought, 
“Susie wouldn’t like it.” 

A silly scruple. I could have converted her, if she’d come out with 
me — but she didn’t. 

And it really would be dishonest. 

And I’ll never see Susie again. # 


MOVING? If you want your subscription to lAsfm to keep up with 
you, send both your old address and your new one (and the ZIP 
codes for both, please!) to our subscription department: Box 7058, 
Red Oak, Iowa 51566. 


BOOKS 


119 



EROGENOSCAPE 





by Walter Jon Williams 


Some people will go to terrifying 
lengths to own the perfect 
body ... Mr. Williams’s new 
novel, Days of Atonement, is 
now available from Tor Books 


art: Laura 




Smoke rises from Babette’s left breast as Dr. Talbot’s cauterizing laser 
strikes home. Collagen and elastin evaporate beneath the precise assault 
of coherent photons, reveal yellow layers of fat. The laser ceases to pulse, 
rotates to a new position, fires again. Blood hisses and gives off steam. 
There is a greasy odor as fat burns away. To Talbot’s sensitive nose drifts 
the scent of blood, of disinfectant. 

The blood flow subsides as the laser cauterizes damaged blood vessels. 
Talbot carefully excavates mammary tissue, then pauses. This is his 
fourth rehearsal of the operation to reduce Babette’s submammary fold, 
and his action, when the real thing comes, will betray no such equivoca- 
tion. He pauses not because of uncertainty, but because of a new idea. 

Once the idea takes form, Talbot acts upon it without hesitation. All 
that is called for is a slightly different gelplast implant. His movements 
are exact. He finishes the left breast, then alters the right along similar 
lines. 

Once the edges of the wounds are glued back together, Talbot adjusts 
his opaque black sleep mask to a more comfortable position and alters 
the t index. He watches as the two breasts heal, wounds drain, scar tissue 
forms. He adjusts the mask again and evaporates the scars with precise 
bursts of his laser. Then he gazes carefully at his work. 

Because he was entering via the underside of each breast, both breasts 
had been pulled upward on Babette’s chest wall. He reaches out, draws 
each breast to a normal position. Body warmth osmoses through his 
surgical gloves. 

He walks around the operating table, studying the result. He makes 
several recordings of the appearance of each breast, measures the angle 
of the underside, then sits the patient up to observe the effects of gravity. 
He repeats his photographs and measurements. 

His mouth is slightly dry. His pulse is slightly elevated. He believes 
he has done very well. 

He stands and takes a few free breaths. Babette, he is sure, will be 
pleased. 

Talbot reaches out to throw a mental switch, and his patient fades 
away. 

Talbot’s sixty-foot motorboat rocks to another gust of wind. Talbot 
sips gasless mineral water in the saloon and gazes at his wife’s smiling 
features, broadcast via satellite from Tahiti and materialized in his optic 
centers. The Pacific sun, he observes, is bringing out her freckles. 

“The Borodins have been very nice,” she says. ‘Trudi and I go out 
every day.” 

“Please give them my best,” Talbot says. 

His first wife, Natalie, had been a fellow medical student who also 


122 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


hoped to make her name in body design — the marriage had failed, Talbot 
thought, because they were too much alike, because they shared too 
many obsessions. In contrast, he and Sarai have little in common and 
the marriage seems a success. 

It was her scapulae that had first attracted him. He first saw them 
here on Montserrat, as Sarai walked the black volcanic beach and played 
toes-tag with the ever-rising ocean. Her back was to him, and, as he 
watched, a shiver ran through him at the extraordinary freedom of hef 
shoulder blades beneath her supple skin — they moved with rare indepen- 
dence, creating a striking play of skin and shadow. It was almost as if 
her scapulae were the pinions of developing wings. He knew he had to 
make their acquaintance. 

He introduced himself and offered to buy her a drink. Her body Was 
petite, with breasts so small he could fit them into a martini glass with- 
out deforming them. The label on her bikini bottom had cost her trust 
fund the equivalent of two months’ work on the part of the average Earth 
laborer. Her bones were good, her hair was dark, her eyes needed work. 
He found out she was a college student on vacation. She explained to 
him her strategy for avoiding worry lines and cellulite. He praised her 
scapulae and she seemed to believe him. He told her he was rich and 
could make her beautiful. She believed that, too. 

Talbot worked on the eyes and nose and mouth, the ears and pectorals 
and breasts and hips. He altered the cheekbones and jawline, improved 
the curve of the buttocks and the line of the calf He restructured the 
eye sockets so that they wouldn’t get puffy in freefall and so that she’d 
look her best on her shopping binges on L4. He tattooed her inner wrists 
with his signature so that everyone would know who designed her. He 
gave her money and let her flaunt his signature, his design, in every 
fashionable resort in the Earth System. It was wonderful advertising. 

He left her scapulae reverently alone. 

He’d overheard people say that their relationship was shallow. Ridicu- 
lous. It was based on the fact they both worshipped, absolutely adored, 
her body. What could be more profound than that? 

Besides, if he ever tired of her, he could simply change her into some- 
one else. It would be simple enough. 

“I see you’re getting a few freckles,” he says. 

There is a half-second’s pause, due to the lagtime of the satellite link, 
and then Sarai turns doubtful. “Should I get out of the sun, do you 
think?” 

“I think they look attractive.” 

Sarai is cheered, at least after the half-second lag. There is a glow in 
her grey Optrim® implants. 

“But I wouldn’t overdo it,” Talbot cautions. 


EROGENOSCAPE 


123 


She promises to be careful of the sun. She blows a kiss at him over the 
interface link. 

“I love you,” she says. 

“I love you, too.” 

The image fades from Talbot’s mind. Babette’s is already there to 
replace it. 

$ 

Mr. Alexandra is Babette’s agent in her dealings with Dr. Talbot. His 
hair and eyebrows are unnaturally black, and he affects a pencil-thin 
mustache and a smoked monocle. The visible eye is an Optikon Seven, 
color Soulful Brown®. Alexandra is tanned and his short hair is parted 
within a millimeter of the center line. He is perhaps sixty, but looks no 
older than twenty-five. His cosmetic surgery is very good, and if Alexan- 
dra hadn’t favored a deliberately artificial style, with projecting brow 
ridges and cheekbones, the work would have been undetectable. 

The boat shudders to a williwaw flooding down from the slot in Mont- 
serrat’s volcano. Because of the potential for oversdroppers, Alexandra 
prefers not to use the interface for his visits with Dr. Talbot, and instead 
visits Talbot on his yacht. 

“In the matter of the femoral triangle and groin,” Alexandra says. 
“Babette would like to see the workups on those as soon as possible.” 

“Naturally. I’ve only done some exploration in that direction, but I 
think I’m prepared to discuss my ideas.” 

“By all means. Do you have a simulation prepared?” 

Talbot smiles. “Shall we face in?” 

With his long, artistic surgeon’s fingers, Talbot slides the interface 
studs into his head sockets. Ceramic and gold contacts snug into place. 
He closes his eyes, pulses codes to the onboard computer, and Babette’s 
groin blossoms before his visual cortex, set against a contrasting of neu- 
tral charcoal grey. 

“There are two points at issue,” Talbot says. “First, the femoral trian- 
gle, specifically the two deep grooves at the juncture of hip and thigh, 
the first between the sartorius and the adductor longus, the second be- 
tween the sartorius and tensor fascia lata.” 

“Quite.” Alexandru’s purring voice reaches Talbot both over the short 
distance between them and over the face, creating a distracting stereo 
effect. 

“Though the pleasant shading caused by the interplay of muscle in 
the inner thigh can be accentuated merely by developing the muscles 
themselves, Babette has indicated that she wishes the sartorius to be 
made more prominent in order to emphasize the grooves on either side. 
This can be accomplished by dissecting the muscles upward and at- 
taching a Plianon implant to the femur.” Talbot triggers the computer 


124 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


simulation, showing different stages of the operation; the muscles lift 
gently outward with teflon-cushioned hooks, the implant nestles in its 
new location. “Plianon is far more frictionless than bone and the muscle 
will slide over it in a natural way. The result — ” Moving the simulation 
to its conclusion. “ — should be a sartorius provocative in its display of 
suppleness and shadow, but without the conclusive appearance of an 
artifact.” Babette’s simulation begins moving through slow-motion knee 
bends. Shadow plays over flexing skin, pantherlike muscle. The point of 
view remains fixed at groin level. 

“Very good, doctor.” Even through the face Talbot can sense Alexan- 
dra’s intense interest. “May I have a copy of this?” 

“Of course.” 

“With your lecture included?” 

“I’m recording it.” 

“Very good. Now — the second problem you mentioned?” 

“Ah. The line of Babette’s groin.” Babette’s simulation freezes its 
movement in a squatting position, knees apart, feet flat on the floor. 
Talbot materializes an image of his own hand, finger pointing, as a visual 
aid. “You’ll note the series of curves displayed in the outline, three on 
each side of the center line. The longest and flattest is the gracilis, which 
is the superficial muscle on the underside of the thigh. As it stretches 
all the way from the shaft of the tibia to the anterior half of the pubic 
arch — in other words from below the knee to the pubic area itself — it is 
best defined in this squatting position.” Talbot’s own hand, his real hand, 
moves in tandem with its simulation as the latter slides along the under- 
side of the simulated thigh. Illusory tactile contact and warmth, artifacts 
of the simulation, trickle along the pads of his fingers. He had found the 
tactile programming to be insufficient and had programmed this piece 
himself. “I personally feel that there is no need for artificial augmen- 
tation of this feature,” he says. “It’s quite prominent on its own.” 

“I’ll make a note of it.” 

“The second curve,” the simulated hand arcing, “is behind the first, 
and basically consists of the fatty lower curves of the buttocks as seen 
from the front. As we are going to lift the buttocks in another operation, 
this curve will diminish.” The simulation does so. “If Babette feels that 
the natural dropcurve is attractive, we can add subdermal pads to en- 
hance it. The operation is very simple and can be done at the same time 
as the buttock lift.” 

1 see. 

“Do you have any idea of Babette’s wishes in this matter?” 

“My suspicion is that she will want to retain that curve, or something 
like it.” 


EROGENOSCAPE 


125 


“I’ll make preparations then and run simulates on a variety of subder- 
mal pads.” 

‘Thank you. I’ll pick them up on my next visit.” 

‘The third curve,” the hand making a delicate cup below the groin, “is 
the projection of the labia majora.” 

“Not sufficient,” Alexandru says. “Babette is not well-endowed in this 
respect.” Talbot can sense his frown. 

“I rather thought the groin was not prominent enough.” 

“At present Babette has subdermal pads in her labia.” 

‘The problem with an implant in the labium majus is that it is rather 
artificial to the touch. In an intimate situation it can be . . . off-putting.” 
Talbot resists the impulse to wiggle his fingers below Babette’s pubis. 

“Babette has not mentioned this,” Alexandru murmurs. 

“Perhaps she has been lucky in her choice of partners,” Talbot says. 
“Nevertheless, we can avoid the issue entirely by fixing Plianon implants 
to the ischial tuberosities — the bony projections at the bottom of the 
pelvis.” Babette’s skeletal structure fluoresces briefly beneath its skin to 
illustrate the point. Little flashing arrows point out the area in question. 
‘This should project the labia downward,” the simulation illustrating 
this, “and create a more provocative curve. The size of the pads and 
degree of projection is of course up to Babette.” 

“Thank you, doctor.” Alexandru’s voice is brisk. Talbot, eyes closed to 
fully enter the interface, can sense his yacht moving uneasily, caught 
between current and the wind pouring through Montserrat’s volcano. 

“One more point, before you face out.” 

“Yes?” 

“In the matter of the breast implants . . .” 

“I thought they had already been decided.” 

“Quite so. But during a recent rehearsal of the operation I noticed 
something. If I may . . . ?” 

Alexandru is impatient. “Very well.” 

The simulation shifts to contrasting recordings of Babette’s breasts, 
the side view. One is the result of Talbot’s last simulated operation, the 
other of an earlier attempt. 

“As you see,” Talbot explains, “the submammary fold is eliminated in 
both cases. But this second pad is slightly fuller along the bottom — you 
see?” His hand traces the curve. “I find this outcurve somewhat more 
pleasing, though of course it’s a matter of opinion. I think Babette might 
want to look at this view before committing herself one way or another.” 

“Ye-es.” Intrigued. “I see what you mean.” Alexandru turns brisk 
again. “I’ll show this view to Babette. The final decision, of course, will 
be hers.” 

“Of course.” 


126 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


“Shall we face out?” 

Talbot unfaces, opens his eyes, turns to Alexandru. His mouth feels 
dry and Talbot is aware that the palm of the hand that had guided the 
simulation is moist. He rubs his hands together, then pops a liquid crys- 
tal data cube from his onboard comp, takes it in his long fingers, and 
hands it to Alexandru. “Here is my analysis. May I offer you a drink? 
Coffee? Tea?” 

Alexandru has a gin and tonic. Talbot pours himself gasless mineral 
water. Alexandru adjusts his monocle, gives Talbot a frown. 

“Any problem with security?” he asks. “Any hints of people sniffing 
around?” 

“None. My private security here is the best available, and as I know 
the Prime Minister socially I can call on state forces at any time. She is 
aware of how many benefits the clinic brings to her,” he smiles, “belea- 
guered island. With the rising water reducing her living space, she’s 
happy for any source of income.” 

“When Babette’s body is brought here,” Alexandru says, “there will be 
problems. I will guarantee it. Some people will do anything to acquire a 
simulation of the body, with or without its modifications. Some may 
attempt to take the body itself.” 

The boat tugs at its mooring buoy. Talbot sips, smiles. “My practice 
caters almost exclusively to celebrities. There’s never been a leak. 
Never.” 

“With all respect, doctor. Babette is different. If the screamsheets ever 
have any idea her body is here ...” 

“I’ve laid on extra security. And my own precautions have been in 
place for some time.” 

The glance through Alexandru’s monocle is sharp. “I merely wish to 
emphasize that unusual pressures may be brought to bear.” 

Talbot holds out his glass of mineral water. Despite the movement of 
the boat, despite the extension of his arm, there isn’t even a tremor in 
the surface of the water. 

“I’m used to pressure,” he says. “In fact I thrive on it.” 

Triumph sings through Talbot as he looks down at the new simulation 
of Babette’s body. Alexandru had brought it to him that afternoon, along 
with the news that Babette had agreed to his suggestion concerning the 
lower curve of her breast. 

The simulations with which Talbot has been working up till now are 
not current. They are an early tjq>e, cruder than he is used to — the 
internal organs not Babette’s, but taken from a generic surgical simula- 
tion, then sized and wrapped in Babette’s image. They are old — thirty 
years old in some cases — created before Babette’s first cosmetic surgery. 


EROGENOSCAPE 


127 


But this simulation is current, taken with the latest scanning technol- 
ogy. This one is Babette and only Babette, down to the subcellular level. 

She stretches out before him on the table, the body young, unscarred, 
its face slack, gaze blank, flesh unmarked by the knife. Pliable. Not yet 
the superstar that dominates the screamsheets but a full-grown embryo, 
a blank slate for Talbot’s scalpel. 

Talbot will help form this icon, this marvel, this figure of worship. He 
can feel power surge through his hands as he gazes down at Babette’s 
body. 

Babette. A name, a body, a face ... an industry. The most stunning 
media figure of the last two generations. Ranked with other legendary 
divinities like Harlow, West, Monroe, Bardot, Taylor. . . . 

No one had thought it possible any more to develop an icon with such 
universal resonance. Humanity stretches from the half-submerged ven- 
ices of Florida to the asteroid belt, embracing ever-diverging tastes and 
cultures — no one figure, it was reasoned, could dominate the preferences 
of a system-wide audience. 

Babette had managed it. She started out, age fifteen or so, as a slit- 
eyed, dimpled porn actress from the slums of Ste.-Foy, her body already 
lush — hormone treatments were suggested. Her stance was cool, cynical, 
thoroughly knowing — provocative in someone her age — but still she 
seemed, despite the coolness, resonant with inadvertent passion. Amid 
the slack glances and hesitant delivery of her contemporaries, Babette 
stood out. Her subsequent history was to demonstrate that her ability to 
imagine herself was already fully-formed. As the parts in which she 
was cast evolved from mediocre porn to high-budget pom to provocative 
comedy, from comedy to music video to sophisticated drama, the cool 
pose faded away, and, as she grew older, Babette managed to discover in 
herself a kind of innocence, a wide-eyed wonder that even the sordid 
facts of her biography had not been able to extinguish. (Screamsheet 
fodder, this: her father was unknown, her mother an alcoholic and the 
victim of a serial killer; her foster parents had sold her to her first pimp 
for two hundred in worthless Quebecois scrip.) 

Volumes had been written about the purity this strange Magdalen 
managed to project. It was the innocence that proved more enduring than 
the earlier worldly-wise pose, an innocence that somehow embraced, 
absorbed, the earlier quality of knowing, without sacrificing its own 
simple artlessness. Babette knew what was what, saw the world as it 
was, and still lived in a kind of hope. 

As the roles matured, so did Babette’s body. Fashions in bodies change, 
from lush to neurasthenic and back again. Babette’s was in the classic 
mode of the goddesses before her — perhaps it is a constant, Talbot thinks, 
some feature of human character, that goddesses need to be ample. No 


128 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


one ever accused Marilyn Monroe of being skinny: no one ever thought 
it hampered her career much, either. 

Babette was one of the first to fiaunt her augmentations. Others had 
cosmetic surgery and acknowledged it when forced to: Babette boasted 
of it — she helped to popularize the term “body design” — and dared her 
audience to work out just what she’d had done. Her fans complied: the 
earlier pornography — Babette had long since acquired the rights — sold 
by the millions so that a careful measured examination could be made 
of every altered feature. Babette’s modifications tend to be daring: she 
will push her body to the brink of artificiality, but not beyond. An overly- 
sculpted, overly-radical look would be too subject to changes in fashion: 
Babette aims for a provocative, ample universality — and she achieves it. 

Babette has been a gigastar for almost forty years. Her every move is 
chronicled with relentless diligence and mind-stretching comprehensive- 
ness by the media. She has achieved the heights for which she aimed, a 
parity with the legends of the past. 

But now she is aiming to surpass them. 

Mae West and Jean Harlow, Liz Taylor and Brigitte Bardot ... all are 
dead. 

Babette, with Talbot’s help, will never die. 

Now that the new simulation has arrived, Talbot’s rehearsals begin in 
earnest. He brings in two assistants, Cummings and Baca-Torrijos. It is 
only necessary to add an anaesthesiologist to complete the team, but she 
won’t be necessary until Babette’s physical body finally arrives. 

Talbot chooses his assistants based not only on skill but on nerve. 
Some people get apprehensive around laser surgical tools, and the usual 
remedy is to cover everyone in the operating room, assistants, doctor, 
and anywhere on the patient not to be cut, with sopping wet towels or 
soaked surgical gear, while everyone in the room wears protective gog- 
gles. All to prevent accidents from happening on the chance the laser is 
pointed the wrong way when it’s turned on. 

Talbot won’t have it. His use of the cauterizing laser is absolutely 
precise, absolutely correct, and he will not have it implied otherwise. If 
his assistants aren’t willing to place trust in him — the same trust placed 
in him by the patients, he points out — then they are welcome to seek 
employment elsewhere. 

Baca-Torrijos has been an assistant for four years now. Cummings, 
however, is new; she has yet to accustom herself to his ways. Even now, 
he notices, even in simulation when it isn’t powered, she flinches a bit 
when the laser deploys toward its target. The nervousness seems to 
increase, rather than diminish, with each rehearsal. 


EROGENOSCAPE 


129 


Talbot rehearses his team meticulously on each operation. Breast re- 
shaping, sublabial implants, buttock lift, the replacement of the eyes 
with Kikuyu® implants, the reshaping of the eyelids and configuration 
of the eye socket for zero-gee, the reduction of the nasal septum, the 
maxilla and replacement of the alar cartridge, that arches winglike over 
each nostril, with a natural-seeming implant just a bit more flared. 

The transformation is something that Babette herself has willed. Her 
grasp of possibility, of surgical technique, is breathtaking. 

The resulting artifact, even in simulation, is astonishing. The pupal 
Babette becomes, step by step, a goddess. 

And then Talbot discovers that someone has profaned the shrine. 

He asks Cummings to meet him in his office. Two of his security detail, 
complete with sidearms, wait outside. 

Voltaic apprehension twitches through her body as she steps through 
the door. The security people have her spooked. Her face (cheekbone 
implants, reshaped jaw, pad at the point of the chin) turns away as he 
looks at her. 

No wonder she was nervous in rehearsal. She was planning this. 

Talbot steeples his long fingers in front of him. “A lengthy transmis- 
sion was recorded on our main computer this morning,” he says. “Do you 
know the transmission I refer to?” 

Cummings’ lips (augmented with CollaTrine®) are pressed furiously 
together. She manages to unclamp them long enough to say No. 

“Ah.” His eyes (Optrim, Radiant Sky Blue®) bore into hers. ‘The 
computer has standing instructions to refer any long transmissions to 
me.” He gives a thin smile. “I looked at this one. It was a complete record 
of Babette’s body, complete with a full log of all our rehearsals.” 

“Someone — ” She stammers. “Someone must have — ” 

“Someone jocked her way into the main computer by altering her sys- 
tem account status from a limited account to that of superuser. I and our 
real sysop were surprised to discover that this was even possible — I’m 
supposed to be the only superuser on the system. Our intruder used her 
high level of access to secretly duplicate our every rehearsal of Babette’s 
operation. It was only when the extraordinarily long transmission was 
logged that a hardwired alarm was triggered.” He leans forward, gazes 
at her. “The intruder didn’t know about the alarm, because it wasn’t a 
part of the programming, it was something I personally hardwired into 
the system. It overrode the command structure and halted the transmis- 
sion. Recorded it instead, for evidence.” Cummings stares at him. “You 
see,” Talbot went on, “when I established this place, I knew there were 
dangers. People who would want recordings of their favorite people. 
And ... I took precautions. Sensibly, it would seem.” 


130 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


“Why,” licking her lips, “why are you talking to me?” 

“The superuser was you.” 

Her answer comes much too quickly. “It could have been someone who 
got my account number and passwords.” 

“And who was also using the terminal in your office? That’s on record, 
too.” 

“I want a lawyer.” 

Talbot gives a snort of contempt. “If you insist. But if you’ll review 
your contract, you’ll find that it covers this contingency. There’s not 
much room for a lawyer to negotiate.” Talbot opens a drawer, produces 
a duplicate of the contract, pushes it across the desk. “This doesn’t have 
to go to court, you know,” he says. “Local justice is . . . well, primitive is 
the wrong expression, quite misleading. I’d say it’s just deprived — not 
much money for coddling felons. And the Prime Minister is a friend, 
which will doubtless infiuence the trial.” 

Cummings gnaws her lip. “Can I have a cigarette?” 

“No. You may not.” Talbot steeples his fingertips again: it’s a gesture 
he enjoys ever since he’d had the fingerbones lengthened with new light- 
weight spacebom alloy in order to provide the long artistic fingers every- 
one seemed to feel a surgeon required. 

“Here’s what I’m offering. You tell me who hired you, and if he’s on 
the island we’ll have him deported. You surrender the money you’ve 
been paid — ^that’s in your contract, by the by. And you agree that the 
two gentlemen outside — ” pointing toward the door, “ — will escort you 
onto an aircraft that will take you to another island, one of the smaller 
Grenadines that isn’t underwater yet, where you will be held incommuni- 
cado until Babette’s operation is completed. You will agree not to ever 
speak publicly on the topic of Babette’s alterations or the designs of any 
of our other patients. In return, we won’t pull your license — ^you won’t 
be able to work for any major body designers, but no doubt you’ll be able 
to find employment in some pathetic little clinic, somewhere in some 
miserable comer of the world, to help wanted criminals acquire new 
faces and thus avoid the law.” He takes another piece of paper from his 
drawer and pushes it across the desk. “Sign here.” 

Cummings reads carefully and signs. He takes the paper and puts it 
back in his desk, then looks up at her. 

“How much were you paid?” 

Cummings thinks for a moment, then takes a deep breath. “Eighty- 
five thousand shares of Tempel Pharmaceuticals,” she says. “I was sup- 
posed to get another eighty-five thousand when I delivered the data.” 

Tempel Pharmaceuticals. Pure blue chip, more stable than any Terran 
currency other than maybe the Swiss franc. Their weightless orbital 
factory was producing new products almost every week. To Cummings 


EROGENOSCAPE 


131 


the stock was worth ten years’ salary at what Talbot was paying her. 
Talbot smiles at her. “Very good. That jibes with what my investigators 
turned up in your portfolio. I would really have hated it if you hadn’t 
mentioned all that stock.” 

She looks at him stonily. 

“Your employer obviously has a lot of money to spend. Who is he?” 

“The name I got was Godolphin. No first name. He’s a big blond guy, 
talks with some kind of accent. Not Brit exactly, but something like.” 

“And he approached you?” 

“On my day off. I took my bike out for a drive and topped by Candy 
Jack’s lounge on the way back. He — ” She shrugs. “I thought he was a 
tourist. Then he started talking investments, like he had something 
special for me.” 

“Apparently he did.” 

Cummings says nothing. 

“I suppose it should fall within the category of a bad tip.” Distaste 
curls Talbot’s lip. “Did he specifically ask for Babette’s program, or just 
anyone’s?” 

“He wanted Babette. He wasn’t interested in our other patients.” 

Talbot reaches for the phone. “You’ll give my associates a thorough 
description. If you’ll go with the gentlemen outside. I’ll make a phone 
call to the Prime Minister.” 

Talbot enters the operating theater. Paranoia swims in his brain, and 
he can taste the metallic bitterness of Cummings’s betrayal on his 
tongue. 

He has hired additional security. Alexandru has been informed and is 
flying to the Grenadines to take charge of the traitor. 

No Godolphin, or anyone approaching his description, has been found 
on the island. Talbot wonders if he is not the only one to benefit from a 
special relationship with the head of government. 

He has spent the last three hours studded into the face, playing Con- 
spiracy XVII. The game — if it is a game, and not something with greater, 
if hidden, purpose — is a version of a standard political/economic world 
simulation developed to assist academics and government officials to 
make decisions. The designers of Conspiracy XVII took the original pro- 
gram and altered a few of the parameters — where the original program 
presupposes a morally neutral universe, the background of the game is 
sinister and malevolent. Conspiracies and cabals revolve about hidden 
power centers, their actions visible only at a distance, through the third- 
hand actions of cat’s-paws who themselves know little of the purposes 
behind their orders. 

Talbot has lived many lives within the murky, sinister framework of 

132 WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


Conspiracy XVII. Usually he dies, the victim of an unknown hand, within 
hours of beginning play. 

Lately, though, he has begun to do better. He has discovered in himself 
a morbidly ingenious talent for survival, for piecing together clues and 
making sense of them. He knows, or thinks he knows, that the conspiracy 
with which he is engaged is descended from the Paulician heretics who 
were suppressed by the Byzantines, who had extended their original 
hatred of Emperor Basil to a universal craving for power. Talbot believes 
he has traced the untoward events by which they gained, then lost, 
power in modern Italy, and by which they gained supremacy in the 
Low Countries, the United Kingdom, and Mexico. Careful note of dead 
American presidents has been taken, and the hagiography of assassina- 
tion assembled. Some things, however, are unresolved. Was it their hand 
seen in the destruction of the first Mitsubishi Lagrange Habitat, or that 
of the Red Gang of Shanghai? Or are the two one and the same? And is 
the newly-formed Orbital Council, the self-governing body for all Earth’s 
artificial satellites and their inhabitants, a part of their scheme, or some- 
how a setback? 

Touch not the cat. One of his clues, delivered by a dying man in a 
hospital in the Sudan. Nemo me impune lacessit, a graffito found on a 
crumbling wall in wartom Kiev. The Latin, he has discovered, is the 
motto of the Order of the Thistle. He suspects his investigations will soon 
take on a Scotian cast. 

Talbot wonders who it is, exactly, behind Conspiracy XVIT? Is it merely 
a game? Or has someone constructed this world-model with a more devi- 
ous intent? Political/economical simulations have been given an ideolog- 
ical caste before. To whom, he wonders, would it be of advantage for large 
numbers of people to start thinking of Earth’s immediate environment as 
an interlocking set of orbiting conspiracies? 

As he enters the operating room, his mind is alert, its edges keen and 
sharp, as if it had been carefully honed. Godolphin, he thinks, doesn’t 
know who he’s dealing with. 

Familiar operating-room smells rise around him. He looks at the table, 
the empty trays for instruments, the defibrillator waiting for an emer- 
gency, the laser scalpel coiled overhead. 

He puts on his opaque mask and studs into the face, calls up the 
simulation of Babette. Her body appears before him: altered, glorious, 
glowing with life, radiant with celebrity. 

The image fails in its usual soothing effect. Talbot puts on a pair of 
gloves and steps to the table. Babette’s sweet breath, oil of cloves, comes 
to his nostrils. He had added that little touch to the programming him- 
self. He touches the warm, elastic skin. Heat rises through the gloves. 


EROGENOSCAPE 


133 


This is what Grodolphin is after. It isn’t only political/economic simula- 
tions that can be used for purposes other than that for which they were 
designed — this work, too, can have its function twisted. 

Some people worship Babette. Some hate her. Some worship and hate 
her at once. 

Some simply want to hold Babette in their arms. With the simulation 
and the right cyber-sexual implants they can experience full intercourse. 
Some, amateur surgeons or body designers, want to make improvements. 

Some just want to cut her to bits. 

The simulation will permit all that. The basic programming was done 
by perfectly sober doctors as a training aide for surgeons, little aware 
that versions of the program would be marketed under names like Ana- 
tomical Seduction, Target for Tonight, or Serial Killer. The program’s 
designers had intended the simulation to realistically reflect the use of 
a scalpel blade on the virtual body, but that implied as well the impact 
of a butcher knife or a double-bitted axe. 

Celebrities, according to the World Court, possess full physiognomic 
rights — each owns her own appearance, up to and including the viscera. 
Few are willing to license their appearance for a product called Razor 
Rape. 

The black market in celebrity simulations is worldwide. Many simula- 
tions offered are merely standard simulations with the celebrity’s face 
and body grafted onto it, but these seem only to have whetted the demand 
for the real thing. Since cosmetic surgery — or full body design — is an 
almost inevitable consequence, and often prerequisite, of celebrity, there 
is an ongoing attempt to corrupt the staff of clinics and hospitals world- 
wide. That is partly why Talbot chose to site his clinic on Montserrat, to 
minimize the chance of contact. 

Eighty-five thousand Tempel shares. That’s the highest offer Talbot 
knows of. 

Talbot looks down at Babette’s body, watches the pulse beat in her 
throat, the rise and fall of her breasts with respiration. What hideous 
thing had Godolphin wanted to do to this perfection? 

Fury thunders along his nerves. Suddenly he doesn’t want to look at 
Babette any more. He turns a switch in his head and now he’s gazing 
down at Sarai. His gloved hands slide over her tanned, compact body, 
trace the invisible seams where he’d removed two lower ribs to give her 
a slimmer waist. 

Anger coils around his heart. He’s been betrayed. 

Feverishly he searches through mental files, calls up the one he wants. 
Now his hands clasp Cummings’s waist, and she gazes up at him with 
shining Optrim® eyes. He smiles and, in the simulation, conjures a 
curved No. 9 scalpel right into his hand. 


134 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


“How’d you like it done to you?” he asks. 

Modern scalpels contain microelectronics to disrupt the electrostatic 
chairges that hold body cells together — they read the positive or negative 
charge and neutralize them, parting tissue without damage. The simu- 
lated scalpel in Talbot’s hand is old-fashioned surgical steel. 

The blade traces blood downward from her sternum. Talbot calls up 
the laser program and his scent and taste centers fill with the smell of 
burning fat. Blood sprays over his pale blue tropical shirt as he rips open 
the abdominal wall. He playfully jabs the peritoneum with the scalpel, 
then again. It makes a startling pop as it perforates. He slices it away, 
then reaches in with his other hand and tears away the gleaming, fatty 
omentum. Musty abdominal smells rise from the revealed organs. 

“Bet I can make some improvements,” he says. 

It’s easy to clean up — Talbot just tells the simulation to go away and 
all the blood, all the organs and fluids, the entire excavated corpse, 
vanish into thin air. 

He can feel his pulse speeding through his veins. His respiration seems 
to be absolutely normal. He holds out a hand and it’s perfectly steady. 

Things are under control. 

He decides to spend the night on his boat, where he can think. He 
leaves the clinic and walks down the night streets toward the jetty where 
he’s parked his inflatable. Trade winds float around him, bearing the 
sharp scents of the island. He can hear some of the locals roistering in a 
back-street shebeen. 

“Hiya, doc.” 

Sweating paranoia swings Talbot around at the sound of the strange 
voice. 

A big white man stands under a dead palm. One hand is in the pocket 
of his tan bush jacket, and the other holds a briefcase. Talbot controls 
a shudder and straightens. His features assume a look of cultivated 
disdain. 

“Mr. Godolphin, I presume.” 

“Not really. That’s just what I told that stupid bitch Cummings to call 
me. 

Godolphin steps forward. He towers over Talbot. Talbot isn’t a short 
man but he can feel his hackles rise at the looming threat. 

“We gotta talk, doc.” Cummings had thought that the voice wasn’t 
British, but in that, as in everything else, she was wrong: she was an 
American and hadn’t heard a Northumberland accent before. 

“I don’t believe we have anything to say to one another,” Talbot says. 
He’d turn and walk away, but something tells him that it would be 
unwise to turn his back on this man. He considers walking sideways 


EROGENOSCAPE 


135 


back to the clinic, then decides it’s far too undignified to go slipping along 
the night streets like a crab, and probably futile anyway. 

“I imagine you’ve got the eighty-five thousand shares, right?” Godol- 
phin says. 

Talbot’s mouth is dry. He speaks with careful, forceful effort. “I’m not 
prepared to give them back. Cummings delivered them to me, as per my 
contract with her. If you want their value back, you can sue to have her 
future wages docked.” 

Godolphin’s face is lopsided, and his grin seems like a monstrous leer. 
Talbot’s fingers itch to take a scalpel to it. 

“Oh hell, doc,” Godolphin says. “Keep the shares.” He takes his hand 
out of his pocket — Talbot tenses for a bullet or a blow — and then opens 
the briefcase. He pulls out a handful of paper shares and offers them. 
“Want the rest?” 

Contempt curls Talbot’s lip. “You can’t afford my price.” 

“I dunno — what’s your price?” 

Talbot laughs. “Don’t be absurd, man.” 

“Name it.” 

Something inspires Talbot to name the most ridiculous sum he can 
think of. ‘Two hundred million Swiss francs.” 

Wind whips hair around the face sockets on Godolphin’s temples. He 
seems abstracted for a moment, then shrugs. “Okay,” he says. “I can 
manage that.” 

Talbot shakes his head. “You’re pathetic,” he says. “If you could com- 
mand that kind of money, in this business I would have heard of you.” 

“It’s not my money, doc. I’m just a messenger. I represent somebody 
else.” 

“Who?” 

Another leer yawns across Godolphin’s features. “Only if we agree to 
do business.” 

Talbot looks at him. The sum of money is preposterous, so huge it’s 
meaningless. He isn’t even tempted by it. “Not possible,” he says. 

Godolphin shrugs, closes the briefcase, tucks it under his arm. “Let’s 
talk family,” he says. “Your lady’s just flown from Tahiti to Havana, 
right? Visiting with some friends, on her way up the well to L4 for some 
shopping?” 

Talbot has played these kind of scenes before, inside the electronic 
confines of Conspiracy XVII. He knows his lines very well. 

“What are you implying?” he demands. The injured-husband tones 
seem to come naturally to his lips. 

“All the work you’ve put in on her body,” Godolphin says, “I’m sure 
she’ll look good in her coffin.” 

136 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


“Surely you wouldn’t go to those kind of lengths for just a computer 
simulation? How can it be worth it?” 

“I just do what I’m told, doc. Like I said, I’m not running this show.” 

Talbot affects to consider this development. Electricity pulses along 
his nerves. He knows how to play this. 

“Two hundred mil,” Godolphin says. “Think about what you could do 
with all that.” 

“I want the other eighty-five thousand shares now,” Talbot says. “The 
two hundred million tomorrow.” 

Grodolphin leers again. “Whatever you say, doc,” he says. Talbot wants 
to reach out and adjust the big, crooked teeth. 

“Come up to the clinic. I want to put the stock certificates in my safe.” 

“Okey-dokey. Just don’t do anything stupid, like call the cops from 
your office. The consequences could be unfortunate.” 

Talbot thinks of Sarai lying torn somewhere, victim of someone who 
apprenticed in butchery with a electronically-simulated body and a 
kitchen knife. The look of terror in her reconstructed eyes. His fine work 
slashed, ruined, ripped to shreds. 

The clinic door opens to his code. It’s a small private clinic, not a public 
hospital with a busy emergency room, and he sees no one on his way to 
the operating theater. He enters the room, flicks on the lights, reaches 
for an interface stud. 

“You got a safe in here, doc?” 

Talbot looks over his shoulder. “Close the door behind you. I don’t want 
anyone to see you here.” 

Godolphin closes the door. His eyes slide over the room, taking in the 
table, the gleaming tile, the equipment. Looking for something threaten- 
ing, seeing nothing. Talbot recognizes his eyes as Optikon Tyrian Vio- 
let**. “This ain’t your office, doc,” Godolphin says. 

“I thought I’d show you the merchandise first. Make sure it’s what you 
want, because I only want you here this once.” He points to some inter- 
face jacks lying on the countertop. “Stud in. You can see what you’re 
buying.” 

“You got it, doc.” The big man brushes hair back from his sockets, 
inserts the jack. Talbot mentally pulses out commands for the laser to 
start its powerup sequence, for the defibrillator to turn itself on and 
switch to its maximum setting of 300 joules. 

Idiot, he thinks. You think I need a knife for this? 

He calls up the simulation of Babette. Godolphin’s eyes widen as her 
apparition appears before him on the table. He gives a whistle. 

“This is her condition before- the operation,” Talbot says. The laser 
hasn’t powered-up yet. “You should see her after I’m through.” 

Godolphin closes his eyes to cut out the distracting appearance of 


EROGENOSCAPE 


137 


reality, allowing only the simulation to soak into his optical centers. 
“She looks this good now" he says, “why does she need you?” 

“Call it a preemptive strike against gravity,” Talbot says. “She won’t 
look this good forever — might as well get the operation over with.” 

The familiar commands, the sight of Babette’s defenseless image, have 
calmed him. His pulse remains slightly elevated, and electric tension 
hums through his nerves, but he’s absolutely ready for what he has to 
do. 

Godolphin reaches out, touches a breast. He seems surprised by the 
warmth. Talbot’s mind shrieks at the violation. 

“What,” Talbot says, “is your boss planning on doing with this simula- 
tion once he’s got it?” 

“I dunno. He’s a collector, I guess.” 

“A connoisseur.” 

“Something like that.” Godolphin palpates Babette’s breast. His eyes, 
moving under closed lids, stray toward her groin. 

A green light winks on the laser’s command display. Touch not the cat, 
Talbot thinks. “Do you know,” he says, “I don’t think I want to go through 
with this.” 

Godolphin opens his eyes and looks up. “C’mon, doc. We had an 
agreement. I don’t want to have to make you regret anything.” 

“I think you’re the one with regrets. I think you don’t realize who 
you’re dealing with.” 

The laser deploys snakelike from its mount on the ceiling. Its electric 
motors make little whining noises, and Godolphin looks up. Talbot knows 
how difficult it is for even experienced operating room techs not to look 
at the light source when it deploys this way. 

Talbot fires a burst into each of Godolphin’s eyes. He’s not confident 
that the second shot was on target, but the first one is dead on and 
Godolphin screams and clutches at his eye sockets. Melted plastic oozes 
like tears over his lower lids. 

The man’s still a lot bigger and presumably has combat reflexes — he’s 
still a danger. Talbot reaches for the defibrillator, grabs the paddles, 
kicks the operating table to one side. Godolphin staggers backward, still 
screaming. Talbot follows up, slams the paddles to each side of Godol- 
phin’s head,' triggers the waiting burst of power. 

There is a sizzle of burning flesh — the 300 joules are hundreds of times 
more powerful than the dose used in the bad old days of electroshock 
therapy. Every muscle in Godolphin’s body goes into spasm. He falls, 
curling into a ball as his more developed flexors win the battle against 
his extenders. 

Godolphin probably doesn’t have much of a brain left, but Talbot 

138 WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


doesn’t want to take any chances. He walks to where the surgical equip- 
ment is stored, takes a long stainless-steel probe, strips off the sterile 
wrapping. He opens Godolphin’s shirt, feels professionally for the gap 
between the fourth and fifth rib, then jams the probe straight to Godol- 
phin’s heart. A nasty bit of cartilage or bone intervenes, and Talbot has 
to punch the probe home by hitting it with the heel of his hand. He has 
to do this several times, because the heart can survive a single puncture. 

As Godolphin twitches his way toward death, Talbot reaches for the 
telephone on the wall, calls Cuba, and makes arrangements for a small 
private security detail to go to where Sarai is staying in Havana, escort 
her to the airport, and stay with her all the way home. He arranges for 
a chartered plane to be ready at the airport. Then he calls Sarai and 
explains what she must do. She is first angry, then frightened, but Talbot 
speaks reassuringly until she agrees. 

He returns to Godolphin. The man is dead, staring up at him with 
his ruined artificial eyes. The right eye is melted, revealing slagged 
electronics. The second shot was, as Talbot suspected, a little off-tar- 
get — it burned through Godolphin’s lower eyelid and struck a glancing 
blow. The orb is only partly burned through. Probably enough force was 
contained in the burst of coherent light to knock the electronics out, at 
least for the length of time it took to finish Godolphin off. 

Talbot looks down at Godolphin and works out what he’ll need to get 
the cooling stiff up on the operating table so that he can get to work. 

If there’s one thing surgical hospitals are good at, he thinks, it’s dispos- 
ing of unwanted body parts. 

The wall phone rings and Talbot jumps half a foot. He takes deep 
breaths to calm himself, then walks to the phone. He hadn’t realized he 
was so nervous. • 

“Dr. Talbot,” he says. 

“I think, doctor,” a voice says, “that you’re the one who doesn’t realize 
who he’s dealing with.” 

Talbot stands frozen for a moment — then his head jerks to look at 
Godolphin’s body. At the eye that hadn’t been destroyed, that was still 
staring up at him from its lifeless socket. 

“Very quick, Doctor Talbot,” the voice says. “Yes, he was broadcasting 
the entire meeting from the radio implanted in his skull. The long-range 
antenna is in the briefcase. I have everything recorded. Especially the 
part where you stick that long thing into him and finish him off.” 

Talbot can only stare. 

“I think we have a lot to talk about,” the voice says. “And by the way, 
my name is Hugo Barrasa.” 

Talbot, to his growing horror, recognizes the name perfectly well. 


EROGENOSCAPE 


139 


Two hundred million. What an idiot. He could have asked for much 
more. 

Distorting tropical heat rolls around Babette’s body as her gurney is 
carried gingerly out of the chartered aircraft. Alexandra and Talbot 
stand on the crumbling concrete taxiway to take delivery. Turbines beat 
at the air, all whining high sonics aimed like drills into Talbot’s ears. 

“You don’t look so very well, doctor,” Alexandru says. 

Talbot wipes sweat from his forehead. “Perhaps I’ve been overworking 
a trifle.” He’s been playing Conspiracy XVII night and day, hoping it 
will hone his mind, accustom him to moments of terror and desperation. 
Give him some idea of what he should do. 

“I hope you aren’t under too much pressure.” Alexandru’s smoked 
monocle bores into Talbot’s forehead. “Calling your wife back with a pair 
of bodyguards — perhaps that was a little . . . overreactive?” 

“A lot of crazy people out there,” Talbot says. 

Alexandru says nothing. 

Talbot holds out his hand. “Steady as a rock,” he says. “Not to worry.” 

This time it’s Babette’s real body on the table, warm and breathing 
and staring up with dim uncomprehending eyes at the assembled surgi- 
cal team. There’s a gleam of saliva in the corner of her mouth. Little 
wires run out of sockets set discreetly above the ear, under the hairline 
where it won’t normally be seen. 

Except it’s not quite Babette’s body, not yet. It’s Babette’s clone, rip- 
ened from some epithelial cells taken from Babette’s arm. Grown in a 
tank, fed on a diet of nutrients and hormones. She looks about sixteen, 
the age when Babette’s career really started to take off. Exercised by 
electrode, the musculature is superb. The brain is empty and contains 
less information about the world than that of a newborn. One of the 
wires running into her skull is connected to the brain’s pleasure center, 
feeding it a trickle of power, keeping the full-grown newborn happy no 
matter what they do to her. 

After the surgery is over — after the last bruise fades and the final scar 
is erased — the real Babette will download her mind into a liquid crystal 
analog in a clinic in Nice, which will then in turn be fed into the clone. 

Babette will rise again — young, beautiful, and in better shape than 
she ever was. 

It’s a new technique, not without risks. Some patients suffer personal- 
ity changes, memory loss, sometimes neuromuscular problems. But Ba- 
bette will still have her original body, as long as it lasts, and if the 
technique works, she’ll have a brand new body and brand new career. 


140 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


There’ll be two of her — no doubt her production company is already 
acquiring mother-and-daughter stories. 

She could be a goddess forever. 

Baca-Torrijos swabs away the drool from Babette’s cheek. Everyone’s 
ready. 

Betrayed, Talbot thinks. 

It’s time to make the first cut. 

He picks up the knife, and out of the corner of one eye he sees the 
anaesthesiologist’s cheek muscles twitch upward in an anticipatory 
smile. . . . 

My precious Babette. That’s what Barrasa calls her. 

“I want her to myself,” he says. “A precious Babette for my very own.” 

At least Talbot doesn’t have to worry about Babette’s simulations be- 
ing duplicated and sold by the tens of thousands. Barrasa doesn’t need 
the money. Besides, he has principles. 

“Filthy perverts touching my precious Babette?” he says. “Doing atro- 
cious things to her? Never!” 

He has taken to calling Talbot at odd hours, usually after viewing 
another recording of Godolphin’s murder. He appreciates the economy of 
Talbot’s technique. 

“I myself have killed,” Barrasa says. “I know what is involved to mur- 
der in cold blood. You and I, we both believe in acting with precision. 
Once our minds are made up, nothing can stop us.” 

Talbot can only wish that were true. He can’t think what to do except 
follow Barrasa’s instructions. 

Forget the two hundred million. Talbot’s doing this for free, not count- 
ing the stock certificates that Cummings surrendered. He’d thrown the 
second bunch of certificates into the Caribbean, along with the dismem- 
bered parts of Godolphin’s body in weighted plastic sacks. Back When 
he’d thought there was some wild hope he could evade Barrasa’s dictates. 

No way. Not once Talbot saw the recording, saw the cold, businesslike, 
intelligent, hyper-aware gleam in his own eyes as he hammered the 
probe home. Something tells him that a jury will not be sympathetic to 
this. Nor will the Prime Minister. 

Barrasa wants the simulations. Every single one of them. And Talbot 
delivers. 

Barrasa was born in Montevideo, but went into orbit when young. He 
became an asteroid miner and made a fortune. It was said, however, that 
many of his most profitable claims were not his own, that his fortune 
was not built on successful pioneering, but on successful development of 
salvage claims after the previous inhabitants of the mining sites suffered 
mysterious decompression or fatal mining equipment failures. But after 


EROGENOSCAPE 


141 


a while people stopped saying those sorts of things about Barrasa. He 
had became too wealthy, too powerful, and too dangerous for people to 
talk frankly about him at all. He owned several profitable asteroids, 
some of them towed into lunar orbit, as well as a small habitat of his 
own containing his smelters, offices, and about two thousand people. He 
was one of the class of people the screamsheets were now referring to as 
“Orbitals,” people who had no terrestrial allegiances left, for whom Earth 
was a blue-white abstraction floating in the void. 

But the Orbitals’ indifference to Earth did not include disregard for 
the electronic media that reached through the vacuum and into their 
minds at the speed of light. Somewhere in his lonely life, in some hellish 
pressurized habitat, Barrasa had encountered Babette. 

“I want to experience her purity,” Barrasa says. “She has sinned, and 
she knows this, but in her inmost heart she is undefiled. It is the same 
with me. I have done bad things, but in my soul I am an innocent child.” 

In his soul, Talbot knows, Barrasa is deranged. The boy’s been sucking 
solar flares and breathing vacuum too long. 

Talbot surrenders the recording of Babette’s body, plus the recordings 
of all his rehearsals. He is told to enclose the data cube in a waterproof 
container, then hang it on a rope over the stem of his yacht overnight. 
Presumably a diver picked it up, because next morning it was gone. 

He tries not to think about what Barrasa is doing with the recordings. 

Meanwhile, the goddess is built, day by day. Eye implants, breast 
implants, buttock lift, ischial implants, two ribs removed to narrow the 
waist. Wounds drain, bruises fade, scars are reduced with the laser. The 
clone, months old and already a wirehead jack-junkie, gazes up through 
it all with a simpering idiot smile. Talbot finds it difficult to concentrate. 
Whenever he sees Babette’s insides, the meaty red grain of muscle or 
the semiliquid yellow gleam of fat, he begins to see Barrasa there, Bar- 
rasa feeling up Babette’s insides with pathological devotion, or stooping 
to kiss or lick the wounds. 

Once, with such a vision on his mind, Talbot seriously burns Baca- 
Torrijos’s hand. He never lost control of the laser before. 

He plays Conspiracy XVII obsessively. The labyrinth of intrigue 
grows — the Scottish connection is minor, almost a distraction, but he 
finds leads in Inverness that take him to Ecuador and the Ivory Coast. 
He escapes death a dozen times. He can almost taste the solution, but it 
remains tantalizingly out of reach. 

He wishes the game were real, and not his life. 

Sarai, after her initial fright, has grown bored with staying under 
guard on the island. She doesn’t have many friends here, Talbot is either 
in the operating room or in the face all the time, and she wonders who 


142 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


those three a.m. phone calls are from. She begins to complain about his 
neglect. 

The goddess nears readiness. Talbot is in awe of his own work: Babette 
is perfection, the fulfillment of his every professional dream. Whatever 
happens, he knows he will have created one true masterpiece. 

After everything is complete, the clone body will be scanned one more 
time, for Babette to voice her final approval and to have a record on file 
for any future operations, and then, assuming she approves, Babette will 
download her mind into her new flesh. , 

“Doctor Talbot,” Alexandra says. “I must insist that you take a few 
days off. You’re obviously working too hard.” 

“I’m a doctor,” Talbot says. “I’m used to it.” 

They sit on the clinic’s pleasant terrace under an umbrella of thatch. 
Alexandra has a pina colada, Talbot his gasless mineral water. Some of 
Talbot’s other patients — minor celebrities, a famous race driver recuper- 
ating after a stupid accident with lighter fluid — are sitting to take the 
sun, or swim (scars encased in waterproof gel) in the pool below. 

“I must insist,” Alexandra says. “I have to think of Babette’s safety. 
You had an accident the other day.” 

Anger spills through Talbot’s mind. “How did you hear about that?” 
he demands. 

“That doesn’t matter. The point is that you are under extreme stress 
and I must insist that you take some time off.” 

“Absurd.” 

“Yes? Hold out your hand. See if it trembles.” 

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Talbot takes a firmer grip on his glass of mineral 
water. 

“Three days, doctor. Take three days off. I should have realized when 
you brought your wife back under guard that . . .” Alexandra falls silent. 
He looks carefully at Talbot. “Was there some reason that you brought 
her back in such a panic? Has someone been making threats?” 

“No. I just thought . . .” Talbot flails for words. “I feel better when she’s 
here. It helps me work.” 

“Ah.” Alexandra lets the syllable hang in the air. “You brought her 
back, but still you hardly see her.” 

“Mr. Alexandra. This is none of your business.” 

“So you say.” He rather clearly disagrees. 

Talbot feels sweat prickle on his nape. Alexandra knows something is 
wrong. 

Talbot takes the days off and spends them on his boat, faced into the 
world of Conspiracy XVII. The calls from Barrasa keep coming. 

“My precious Babette’s final recording,” Barrasa says. “We should dis- 
cuss the delivery.” 


EROGENOSCAPE 


143 


“I want my own recording back,” Talbot says. “The one of me and 
Godolphin.” 

“I can give you the cube with that recording,” Barrasa says, “but how 
will you know I don’t have a copy? There could be a thousand copies in 
existence by now.” 

“There had better not be,” Talbot says. 

“You’ll have to trust me. I’m afraid. And why shouldn’t you? I wish 
only to participate with you in the miracle of Babette. You must love her 
yourself, adore her, to have done these beautiful things to her. I am in 
awe of your skill.” 

Talbot forces himself to respond politely. “Thank you,” he says. 

“And you do these fine things for other celebrities, yes? Celebrities 
that people would want for their very own.” 

“No one like Babette,” Talbot says. “No one at all important.” 

“But people would pay good money for these celebrities, yes? And why 
not give the simulations to them?” 

“That would be highly unethical.” 

“For a doctor, yes. Not for a cold-blooded killer.” 

Talbot is appalled. “You want to share Babette with these people?” he 
demands. 

Barrasa’s answer is quick. “Not my precious Babette. Never her. But 
these others — whores, media trash, gossip mongers — all the people who 
will flock to you once it’s known you worked on Babette — why not them'?” 

Talbot opens his mouth to reply, and then a realization comes to him. 

“Keep talking,” he says. 

And Barrasa comes hack instantly, promoting his idea of Talbot selling 
his patients to every lunatic in the Earth system. Talbot barely listens. 

Barrasa’s answer was immediate. He’s not off in orbit somewhere, 
because that would mean a time-lag between one person’s speech and 
another’s. Barrasa’s fairly close, and probably on Earth. 

Talbot should have noticed this the first time Barrasa called. 

But now that he is finally aware, Talbot knows exactly what to do. 

The goddess lies, like Sleeping Beauty, awaiting the waking kiss of 
the electronics. She’s perfect, as perfect as Talbot and all his skill can 
make her. 

She’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. Talbot examines the 
body with reverence and awe. His palate is dry, his pulse elevated. 

He wills the eyes to open, to look into his. They remain shut. 

Wires trail delicately out of the sockets on Babette’s head. She lies on 
her own bed, in her own suite at the clinic. The room is filled with 
fresh-cut flowers. Dr. Garibaldi, from the clinic in Nice, has arrived to 
supervise the transfer. 


144 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


There is a knock on the door. Talbot opens it and allows Babette’s 
cosmetician to enter. Babette will awaken in a freshly made-up body. 

Resentment hums in Talbot’s thoughts. Why try to improve on per- 
fection? 

He leaves the room. He isn’t needed for this part, and besides, he has 
other things to do. 

Talbot goes to his office, locks the door, tells the computer to refuse all 
calls. He puts the studs in his sockets and faces in and gives the computer 
his superuser passwords. His mind rolls into the processor. Talbot calls 
up software and uses his superuser status to monitor the phone banks. 
When the phone call comes, he’ll be ready. 

Babette, he knows, is at an exclusive villa in the Italian piedmont. 
She’s made several widely-publicized appearances in the last few weeks 
in order to draw off any attention from what’s been going on at Talbot’s 
clinic. 

Babette, just that morning, had downloaded her brain into a vat of 
liquid crystal in Nice. And Nice is just waiting for the signal from Mont- 
serrat in order to transfer the program into the mind of Babette’s clone. 

Talbot waits, himself, for the same signal. 

The signal comes. And Talbot triggers his own program. 

Hello, Senor Barrasa. Surprised to see me? 

What goes on in his own skull is difficult to define. Talbot’s aware of 
things happening, of memories being triggered, reflexes being examined, 
scents rising unbidden ... of something moving through his mind with 
an awesome, inexorable power. At the same time he’s alert enough to 
monitor the progress of the massive electronic buffer he’s set up, to make 
certain the program is performing as per schedule. 

He’s interfered with the process. The signal from Nice is arriving, yes, 
but not in the clone’s mind. It’s going to an electronic oblivion, a 
lightspeed shuttle to nowhere . . . Talbot’s dumping it. 

Instead it’s his own mind that’s going into Babette’s clone. There’s no 
certainty of this succeeding — there’s only a decent chance of success if 
the minds match to begin with — but Talbot knows it’s the only solution 
to his problems. 

Senor Barrasa, we need to talk. 

How many artists, he wonders, have the chance to inhabit, to physi- 
cally inhabit, their own greatest work? Only those who alter their bodies, 
with bodybuilding or implants or tattooing, and that work is crude com- 
pared to what Talbot has done. 

He’s going to incarnate himself in a divinity. He will be both a goddess 
and his own principal worshipper. 

Babette, he thinks, is going to make some odd career moves. Buy a 


EROGENOSCAPE 


145 


body sculpting clinic, get a license to practice. But why not? Personality 
changes and memory loss are a side effect of the clone transfer process. If 
she can’t remember certain important details, certain important people, 
Babette can chalk it up to an incomplete transfer. 

Instead of two Babettes, there will be two Talbots. The first one is a 
murderer and doesn’t matter. Though it’s the first Talbot, the unimport- 
ant one — the mortal — who has an important task to accomplish. 

Barrasa has to be taken care of. Talbot is willing to bet that it’s going 
to be easy. 

He knows where Barrasa is. Once Talbot realized that he was in the 
neighborhood, he bought some satellite photographs and did some ele- 
mentary research. There’s been a yacht cruising in the channel between 
Montserrat and Antigua for the last several weeks, just turning lazy 
circles in the blue. A little checking confirmed it was owned by Barrasa’s 
corporation. 

Babette’s earlier recordings had been picked up by a diver. Where had 
the diver come from but a boat? 

Talbot should have realized it long ago. 

Senor Barrasa, look what I brought. I thought I should bring it in 
person. 

On the desk next to Talbot’s hand is a surgical scalpel. The shaft is hard 
plastic contoured to his hand, and the blade under its plastic protector is 
the latest-generation ceramic. It won’t set off a metal detector, and it 
will fit nicely, unobtrusively, delicately, in one of Talbot’s ribbed socks. 

Talbot will deliver Babette’s last recording himself, motor straight to 
where Barrasa’s yacht waits. He knows Barrasa will want to be alone 
when he gazes at his precious Babette. But he won’t be alone, not if 
Talbot insists on pointing out some of the fine features of his work. 

Let me explain something, Senor Barrasa. I want to show you a new 
procedure I performed just before the transfer. If you will just look over 
here? You’ll have to crane your neck. 

Talbot is willing to bet that he can slice Barrasa’s throat before the 
man can call out or otherwise interfere. Talbot is also willing to bet that 
he can erase any incriminating recordings before the body is discovered. 

And if he’s discovered or thwarted or arrested afterwards or killed by 
the man’s guards, so what? Talbot, the mortal, isn’t the important one. 

That Talbot can die. 

Because the other Talbot, Talbot the goddess, will have risen. 

Lights glow in Talbot’s optical centers. The program has run its course. 

Talbot faces out of the machine and removes the studs from his skull. 
His mouth is slightly dry, as are his palms. His pulse is only slightly 
elevated. 


146 


WALTER JON WILLIAMS 


He knows he will do well. He needs only to know whether the transfer 
succeeded. 

He puts the scalpel in his sock, rises from his chair, unlocks the door, 
walks to Babette’s suite. Alexandru and other members of Babette’s 
entourage are there. 

“Is Babette all right?” Talbot asks. 

Alexandru takes the smoked monocle out of his eye, wipes it with a 
handkerchief. “She was a bit confused, but that was only to be expected. 
She recognized me.” 

“That sounds promising. May I see her?” 

“Dr. Garibaldi gave her a sedative. He wants her to rest.” 

“Ah.” 

Alexandru returns his monocle to his eye and looks at Talbot. “Babette 
had a message for you. She had a little difficulty talking, but she was 
very insistent. She said to tell you that everything had gone perfectly.” 

Cold joy tingles in Talbot’s frame. He compels himself to nod gra- 
ciously. “Thank you. That sets me at ease.” 

“Things have gone well so far.” 

“I think ni spend the afternoon on the boat. Maybe go out for a ride.” 

Alexandru gives him a nod. “You deserve some relaxation. Doctor, 
after all your work.” 

Talbot is already mentally rehearsing his lines. Senor Barrasa, look 
what I have. Look what I have for you. 

He looks at Alexandru and thinks of the scalpel hidden in his sock. 

“Perhaps I’ll catch a big fish,” he says. 

And smiles.# 

With special thanks to Sage Walker. 


FROM: 

A CHILD’S GARDEN 
OF GRAMMAR 

STRANGE PLURALS 

Strange Plurals there are that live like Swine 
And have no Teeth like yours and mine. 

Their diet consists of milk-fed Mice 
That have been stuffed with Flies and Lice. 

Though Passers-by may stop and stare 
They lead their Lives with no more care 

Than Oxen on their sunlit leas 
Or numbers in their Matrices. 

—Tom Disch 



by Jack McDevitt 

TIME’ 


Copyright 1991 by Jack McDevitt 


art: Anthony Bari 


McHugh meant only 
to observe histOjY, 
not land right in 
the middle of it . . . 


ROW 


“It can’t be done.” I stared at him, and at the gunmetal ten-foot-high 
torus that dominated the room. “Time travel is prohibited.” 

He pushed a stack of printouts off a coffee table to make room for his 
Coors, and fell onto the sofa. It sagged and threatened to collapse under 
his bulk. “Gillie,” he said, “you’ve got all those old Civil War flags and 
that drum from — ah — ?” 

“Fredericksburg.” 

“Yeah. And how many times have you been to the battlefields? Listen, 
we can go see the real thing. Fort Sumter. Bull Run. You name it.” His 
easy, confident smile chilled me. “It is possible to reverse the arrow of 
time. Tonight you and I will have dinner in the nineteenth century.” 

“Mac,” I said, adopting a reasonable tone, “think about it a minute. If 
it could be done, someone will eventually learn how. If that ever happens, 
history would be littered with tourists. They’d be everywhere. They’d be 
on the Santa Maria, they’d be at Appomattox with Polaroids, they’d be 
waiting outside the tomb, for God’s sake, on Easter morning.” 

He nodded. “I know. It is odd. I don’t understand why there’s no evi- 
dence.” 

I drew back thick curtains. Sunlight sliced through grimy windows. 
Across the empty street, I could see Harvey Keating, trying to get his 
lawnmower started. “In fact, if you were the father of time travel, they’d 
be out there now. Knocking down barricades — ” 

He nodded. “I hear what you’re saying.” He looked past me, and out 
toward the front of the house. A pickup cruised by. Keating’s lawnmower 
kicked into life. “Still,” he said quietly, “it works.” He jabbed an index 
finger toward the torus, and then expanded his arms in a grand gesture 
that took in the entire room, computer banks, gauges, power cord tangles, 
rolltop desk. Everything. “It works,” he repeated, even more softly. “I’ve 
tested it.” 

I blinked. “How? Are you saying you’ve been to the nineteenth 
century?” 

His gray eyes lost focus. “I’ve been somewhere,” he said. “I’m not sure 
where.” He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “I finally real- 
ized the problem was in the stasis coils — ” 

“What happened, Mac?” 

“Gillie, I landed in the middle of a riot.” 

“You’re kidding.” 

“Yes. I damn near got trampled. There was a labor demonstration on 
the other side.” 

“On the other side?” 

“Of the nexus.” He gestured toward the torus. “At least that’s what it 
looked like. People carrying signs, making speeches. Just as I crossed 
over, a bomb went off. In the back of the crowd somewhere. Cops waded 


TIME’S ARROW 


149 


in, swinging sticks. It was pretty grim. But they had handlebar mus- 
taches. And old-time uniforms.” He took a deep breath. “We were outside 
somewhere. In the street.” His eyes focused behind me. “Goddammit, 
Gillie, I’ve done it. I was really there.” 

“Where? Where were you?” 

“I think it was the Haymarket Riot. I was on Jefferson Street, and 
that’s where it happened. I spent the day at the library trying to pin it 
down.” 

‘The Haymarket Riot? Why would you go there?” 

“I was trying to get to the Scopes monkey trial.” He shrugged. “I 
missed. But what difference does it make?” His eyes gleamed. “I’ve done 
it.” He swept up a half-full beercan and heaved it across the room. “I 
have goddam done it!” 

“Show me,” I said. 

He smiled. Genuine pleasure. ‘That’s why you’re here. How would you 
like to see Our American Cousin? On the night?” 

I stared at him. 

He handed me another Coors — it was mine that had gone for a 
ride — stepped over a snarl of power cables and octopus plugs, turned on 
a couple of the computers and opened a closet. Status lamps glowed, and 
columns of numbers appeared on monitors. “You’ll need these,” he said, 
tossing me some clothes. “We don’t want to be conspicuous.” 

“I think I’d prefer to see him at Gettysburg.” 

“Oh.” He looked annoyed. “I could arrange that, but I’d have to recali- 
brate. It would take a couple of days.” The clothes were right out of Gone 
With the Wind. He produced a second set for himself 

“I don’t think they’ll fit,” I said. 

He nodded his satisfaction as if I hadn’t spoken, and jabbed at a key- 
board. A legend appeared on one of the monitors: TEMPORAL INTERLOCK 
GREEN. ‘The heart of the system,” he said, indicating a black box with 
two alternately flashing red mode lamps. “It’s the Transdimensional 
Interface. The TDI.” He placed his right hand gently against its polished 
surface. “It coordinates power applications with field angles — ” 

I let him talk, understanding none of it. I was an old friend of 
McHugh’s, which was why I was there. But I was no physicist. Not that 
you had to be, to understand that the past is irrevocable. While he ram- 
bled on, I climbed reluctantly into the clothes he’d provided. 

The twin lamps blinked at a furious rate, slowed, changed to amber, 
and came gradually to a steady green. 

‘The energy field will be established along the nexus. We’ll make our 
transition about a mile and a half outside D.C., at nine in the morning, 
local time. Should allow us to travel to the theater at our leisure.” 

His fingers danced across the keyboard. Relays clicked, and somewhere 


150 


JACK McOEVin 


in the walls power began to build. A splinter of white light ignited in 
the center of the torus. It brightened, lengthened, rotated. “Don’t look at 
it,” McHugh said. I turned away. 

The floor trembled. Windows rattled, a few index cards fluttered off a 
shelf, a row of black binders fell one by one out of a bookcase. “Any 
moment now. Gillie,” he said. The general clatter intensified until I 
thought the building would come down on us. It ended in a loud electrical 
bang and a burst of sudden sunlight. Ozone flooded the room. Time broke 
off. Stopped. McHugh held one arm high, shielding his eyes. A final 
binder tottered and crashed. Then a blast of wind knocked me off my feet 
and across the coffee table. I went down in a hurricane of printouts, 
pencils, clips, and beer cans, grabbed a table leg, and held on. Magnetic 
disks and plastic plates whipped through the room. A chair fell over and 
began to move toward the torus. Windows exploded; the curtains flapped 
wildly. 

A rectangular piece of clear sky, a cloud-flecked hole, filled the torus. 
Everything not bolted down, books, paper plates, card files, monitors, a 
rolodex, you name it, was being sucked toward it, and blown through. 
McHugh almost went too when the console to which he was clinging 
broke loose. 

He bounced past, terrified, and seized the sofa. The console crunched 
through the hole, sailed out among the clouds. Mac’s lower half went 
next. He screamed. 

The sky was full of clothes and printouts and magazines and index 
cards. 

I maneuvered my table closer until I could reach him. He held out a 
hand, but I ignored it and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. His 
eyes were wide with terror. The paper storm continued: where the hell 
was it all coming from? A computer broke loose and went out. 

Like the console, it slid across the sky. I watched it, and, impossibly, 
my senses rotated, the way they do when you’re sitting under one of 
those giant cinema screens, and I realized I was looking straight down. 
I could see forest down there, and a river. And green and gold squares 
of cultivated land. 

Something with feathers flapped through a window, blurred across the 
room and was flung out among the clouds. 

The river flowed past farmhouses, past orchards, past a town. 

The land was unbroken by highways or automobile traffic. But down 
through the clouds a half-built obelisk gleamed in full sunlight. 

“Gillie — ” He let go of me long enough to clap me on the back. “That’s 
the Washington Monument.” 

“Mac,” I howled. “What the hell’s going on?” 


TIME’S ARROW 


151 


“We’re here, goddammit. Now what do you say?” He laughed and his 
eyes watered and the table lurched a few inches. Matter of time. 

Do something. Close the goddam hole. An octopus socket lay nearby. 
Cut the power, that was it. But when I picked it up, McHugh’s state of 
alarm soared. He stabbed a frantic finger at his legs. I’d pulled him back 
somewhat, but everything below his knees was still thrust out into space. 

Okay: try something else. The coffee table was too wide to go through 
the hole. But if I could keep it sideways, I might be able to wedge it 
against the torus. Block off the hole. Not all of it, but enough. 

I changed my position, got behind the table. And pushed. McHugh saw 
what I was doing, and nodded encouragement. Yes. His lips formed the 
word. Yes, yes. I held on as long as I could, fearful that the table would 
twist in the gale, that I would lose it, and then follow it. “Get your legs 
out of the way,” I screamed. “I need room.” 

He shook his head. Can’t do it. But I didn’t need to tell him that I no 
longer controlled events, that the table was moving under its own power, 
and that he should do it or his legs were going south. He made another 
•effort, and wrenched himself clear just as the furniture and I arrived at 
the nexus. The table jammed tight against the sides of the torus. 

It shut off some of the drag. Not much, but some. More important, it 
gave McHugh a place to put his feet. He was now reeling in the octopus 
plug himself, and began methodically, angrily, disconnecting everything. 
Across the room, a radio came on. Then, abruptly, the hurricane died. 

“You were right,” I said in the sudden silence. “We were about a mile 
and a half from D.C.” 

• 

“Ready?” He stood by the TDI. It was almost two weeks after the first 
attempt. 

“Should we wear seatbelts?” 

He grinned. Very much the man in charge. “You can have your little 
joke. But I’ve made some adjustments on the transition phase. I think I 
can promise we’ll be at ground level this time.” The twin mode lamps on 
the TDI went to green. 

“Same destination?” 

“Of course.” He hovered over the Macintosh which would initiate the 
sequence. “Ready?” 

I nodded, positioning myself near the table. 

He touched the keyboard, and the tiny star re^peared. I turned away 
as it brightened. We got the electrical effects again, and the ozone. And 
the sudden, intoxicating bite of salt air. The hole was back. 

It was night on the other side of the torus. A lovely evening, composed 
of a broad dark sea, blazing constellations, and a lighthouse. A quarter 


152 


JACK McDEVin 


moon lay on the surface. Surf boomed, and a line of white water ap- 
proached. 

I felt spray. 

“Goddam.” McHugh froze. 

The ocean surged in. Black water crashed against the furniture, boiled 
around the walls, smashed the windows. And shorted the lights. 

The hole collapsed. 

“Here we go.” He wiped his jaw with the back of his hand. Sweat stood 
out on his forehead. 

“Okay.” 

“This time we’ll get it right.” There was no smile now. 

Everything was bolted down and well off the floor. The room had been 
cleared of all furniture and nonessentials. I wondered whether we hadn’t 
been lucky. What would have happened if the hole had opened in the 
depths of the ocean? Or far beneath the surface in a stratum crushed 
under ten thousand feet of rock? “Mac,” I said, “maybe we should forget 
it.” 

He shook his head vigorously. “Don’t be ridiculous.” 

“I mean it. I get the feeling somebody’s trying to tell us something.” 

McHugh pulled on his waistcoat and bent over a display. “System’s 
fully charged. We’re all set. Gillie. You want to do the honors?” 

Reluctantly, I walked over to the TDI, looked at him, looked at the 
torus. Looked at the keyboard. It was a new computer. 

“Okay,” he said, trying to look casual, but bracing himself all the same. 
“Any time.” 

I did it, and the process started again. 

This time, we found summer. Green meadows stretched toward a 
nearby line of wooded hills. Goldenrod, thistles, and black-eyed susans 
covered the fields. Afternoon invaded the room, and, with a thump, the 
air conditioner kicked in. 

“At last,” said McHugh, standing before the torus, gazing through it. 
“1865,” he breathed. For a long time, he didn’t move. Then: “Now, listen. 
Gillie: the nexus will close five minutes after we pass through. But it 
will open again for five minutes every twelve hours until we come back 
to shut it down. Okay? Make sure you remember where we are. In case 
you have to find your own way back.” 

Without another word, he stepped through. His image flickered mo- 
mentarily, as if in a heat wave. On the other side, he raised a fist in 
silent triumph, and gazed at his surroundings. “Come on. Gillie. Come 
on over.” He produced a bottle and two glasses, filled them, and held one 
toward me. 

I hesitated. 


TIME’S ARROW 


153 


“It’s okay,” he said. 

I gathered my courage, and stepped through of the time device. I will 
admit I was now convinced. Maybe it was that the notion of time travel 
was no more absurd than the presence of a broad field in one’s living 
room. In any case, I strolled from the carpet onto dry grass. The air was 
thick with the drowsy buzz of insects and the heat of the sun. I took the 
glass. The bright liquid within sparkled. “To you, Mac,” I said. 

McHugh loosened his tie. “To the Creator,” he said, “who has given us 
a universe with such marvelous possibilities.” 

The afternoon smelled vaguely of sulfur. I took my coat off. We stood 
on a broad field enclosed by rising forest. A dark haze hung over the 
valley. In the distance, I could make out a town. It looked small. Hot and 
dusty. Several clusters of farm buildings were distributed at the foot of 
the ridges, guarded by low stone walls and fences constructed of posts 
and rails. A wagon waited in one of the farmyards. But they all stood 
strangely empty. No farmers. No cows. No horses or dogs. A dirt road, 
also fenced, wandered through the center of the valley. 

I fell in beside McHugh and we angled off toward the road. “Where 
the hell is everybody?” I asked. 

He ignored the question. “Do you notice the farmhouses have no TV 
antennas?” 

“I notice,” I said. “On the other hand, it must be July or August.” I 
mopped my brow. “Certainly not April.” 

He nodded, but showed no sign of disappointment. He was happy to 
have arrived somewhere. Anywhere, if it turned out to be Lincoln’s 
America. “I agree. We’ve missed again. But what the hell — ” 

Nothing moved anywhere in the valley. The sun was hot in my eyes, 
and I knew the landscape. 

I knew the ridges, the farms, the town. “Mac,” I said, “where are the 
birds?” The sky was empty. Behind us, the torus hovered, McHugh’s 
computer-laden back room vivid against the rolling hills and forest. 
“Maybe we should go back.” 

He responded by removing his jacket. “You go back if you want to. 
Gillie.” His eyes gleamed, and he looked happier than I’d ever seen him. 
He fished his watch out of his pocket, glanced at it, looked at the sun, 
which was on our left, and shrugged. “Let’s make it three o’clock,” he 
said, setting the timepiece and winding it. He dropped it back into the 
pocket and folded the coat over his arm. 

Near the town, a flag fluttered from a stone wall. We were too far away 
to count the number of stars in the blue field, but it was the national 
colors. I was squinting at it, when I heard the breath catch in McHugh’s 
throat. He was peering over my shoulder, back toward the torus, toward 
the line of hills behind it. 


154 


JACK McDEVin 


“What’s wrong?” I asked. His workroom still floated peacefully in the 
afternoon. 

“The woods,” he said. “Behind the nexus.” 

Yes: among the trees, something was moving. 

As I watched, the sun struck metal, and the forest came alive with 
men in gray uniforms. They remained within the shelter of the trees, 
but I could see them moving, kneeling just beyond the sunlight, others 
coming in behind. Forming up. 

My God. “What’s going on?” asked McHugh. “Where are we?” 

A bugle call split the afternoon. 

And they came out in oiled precision, bayonets gleaming among battle 
flags. Drums rolled. Columns wheeled smartly into line and started 
quickstep toward us. 

Behind them, on the hilltops, guns roared. Puffs of smoke appeared on 
the opposite ridge. And I got a good look at the standards: “Son of a bitch, 
Mac,” I said. “It’s the 24th Virginia.” 

I watched them come. They seemed unaware of the torus, which I 
suspected was invisible from the rear. Their lines were perfectly dressed, 
officers with drawn swords on horseback. There were thousands of them, 
literally parading out into that open field as far as I could see. 

“Over there,” I said. “The 7th Virginia. And up the line will be the 
11th. Jesus.” I was overwhelmed by the majesty of it. “You’re right, Mac. 
We’re here. Son of a bitch — ” 

“Gillie,” he said, “we’re where? What the hell’s going on?” 

A long orchestrated crescendo shook the top of the opposite ridge. 
“Down,” I screamed, throwing myself on my belly and covering my head. 

The ground erupted. Earth and rocks flew. Holes were blown in the 
* ranks of the advancing men. Others hurried to fill up the spaces. “This 
is Kemper’s Brigade,” I said. He was staring at me, not comprehending. 
I was surveying the ridges and road. The fences and stone walls. The 
farms. The town. “You’ve been dumped on again, Mac.” I was getting to 
my feet. “We’ve got to get away from here.” 

The cannonade was deafening. Thunder rolled down from both slopes. 
The troops came on. Silent. Walking into the fire because their generals 
didn’t understand yet that war had changed. 

McHugh was trying to restrain me. “Stay down,” he said. “We’ll wait 
it out.” 

“No,” I shrieked. “Not this one. We’ve got to get back before the hole 
closes.” 

“You’re crazy. You’ll get killed.” 

“We won’t survive out here.” I was shaking my head violently. “You 
know what that is back there? It’s Seminary Ridge.” 

McHugh was close to my ear, but he had to shout anyway. “So what?” 


TIME’S ARROW 


155 


“Pickett’s Charge,” I said. “We’re in the middle of Pickett’s Charge.” 

We got back moments before a cannonball roared through the work- 
room, blew three walls apart, collapsed the front porch, and nailed Har- 
vey Keating’s Toyota, which was parked in his driveway. 

The equipment was in ruins. Again. 

Nevertheless, McHugh was exultant. “You see?” he said. “It is pos- 
sible.” 

And I trembled. I trembled because I knew that, for a few minutes on 
the third day of the battle, I had actually been at Gettysburg. 

And I trembled for another reason. “Mac,” I said. “You’ve made four 
attempts now. All four have been disasters.” 

“But we’re learning” he said. “We’re getting better. You have to expect 
problems. But we know how to travel.” 

“That’s what scares me.” I looked around the smoking ruins. “What 
are the odds against accidentally arriving at the exact time and place of 
a major event?” 

He shrugged. “Slim, I would think.” 

“You’ve done it twice.” 

I knew he wouldn’t quit, though. He bought more equipment, and went 
back to work. “Making improvements,” he said. A few weeks later he 
was ready to try again, and issued another invitation. I told him no 
thanks. I could see he was disappointed in me. 

But hell, I can take a hint. 

So I wasn’t too surprised when his newspapers started piling up. I 
waited a couple of days and broke in. 

The house was empty. 

In the back room, I found his equipment intact. Except for the TDI: a 
stone-tipped feathered arrow jutted from its polished black metal. It had 
penetrated right between the mode lamps.# 

FROM: 

A CHILD’S GARDEN 
OF GRAMMAR 

EITHER/OR 

Either and Or came to a door. 

Either wouid enter, but not before Or, 

So still they stand outside that door. 

But now their names are Neither and Nor. 

— Tom Disch 





FROM: 

A CHILD’S GARDEN 
OF GRAMMAR 


TENSE 


The future is ahead of me, 
The past is ail behind. 

But I live in the present, free 
jrti' 


And only partly blind 

— Tom Disch 


EPITAPH FOR THE PAST TENSES 


That we once were was all our boast. 
The Present came — and burnt our toast. 
For us the bidden 'Rest in Peace’ 
Becomes a jest at our lost lease 
On living Life and breathing Breath. 
Those who have died must live in Death 



—Tom Disch 


W. 


THE FUTURE TENSE 



Someday I will know what to do. 
And then I'll surely act— 

Till which time I’ll sit and stew, 

A model of poise and tact. 







TORSO 

by Leonard Carpenter 


Leonard Carpenter “is the proud author of 
four Conan the Barbarian novels, with more 
on the way." Mr. Carpenter lives in 
Santa Maria, California, with his wife 
and their twelve-year-old twin daughters. 
His short fiction and his poetry have 
appeared in Amazing. 2AM, 
Argonaut, and The Year's Best Horror 
Stories. “Torso" 
is his first story for lAsfm. 


art: N. Taylor Blanchard 


Starlight; herb-scented Aegean night, with brisk waves rolling in be- 
neath the keel of the motor yacht. The only sound noticeable over the 
near-continuous crash of surf was the shifting scrape of loose stones in 
the crumbling pier. I turned from its low, jagged silhouette to look down 
the lines of phosphorescent breakers surging and dissipating, washing 
a cove where biremes might have beached twenty-five hundred years 
ago. Satyrs could have courted pale-limbed nymphs here by moonlight, 
or muscular Greek heroes their adoring boys. 

The cove wasn’t much of a mooring for modern boats, power-craft with 
crews too small to drag them up out of reach of the waves. Storm swells 
running before a strong wind from the west could have pounded us apart 
in minutes against the hard-packed sand. For that matter, I wasn’t ex- 
actly happy with the sharp impacts of the Nereids hull against the ragged 
tires suspended from the stone pier. But tonight’s surf was relatively 
mild, the sky cloudless, the breeze rolling down warm and fragrant from 
the island’s brushy hills. 

“No sign of Torrence yet?” Castillo’s uneasy voice came from astern; 
he was sitting on top of the engine hatch, I could tell by the loom of his 
slim shape against the phosphorescent surf 

“I don’t know. Wait, maybe.” Faint smells of ouzo and tobacco were 
drifting down now on the wind, along with the distant rattle of Medi- 
terranean laughter. Then, dimly against the stars, I caught a glimpse 
of bodies moving in line — a half-dozen figures threading their way down 
the cliff path. Torrence must’ve been drinking with the islanders to seal 
their bargain. 

I wished I had a pair of night glasses; squinting toward the cliff, I 
thought I could make out Jack Torrence’s compact, robust figure striding 
in the lead. Just how drunk had he gotten, I wondered? Might his easy 
goodwill toward the Greeks be merely feigned, or a sign of danger? I bent 
slightly, feeling underneath the bulwark to make sure my automatic was 
in reach. 

“Alonzo, old boy, we’ve got the goods!” Torrence waved to me with a 
breezy carelessness I hoped he didn’t really feel; then he turned back to 
his companions, to chatter with them in Greek. They’d stopped at the 
head of the quay and set down their burdens, apparently reluctant to 
come too near the launch before securing payment. Further back up the 
path, a hand-held battery lamp flicked on, flashing first across me and 
the boat, then lighting up the shore party and the irregular, cloth- 
wrapped parcels laid on the narrow stone-paved landing. Finally the 
yellowish beam silhouetted Torrence and followed him as he strode out 
onto the quay in his rolling, slightly tipsy sailor’s gait. 

“Give me both bags, it’s prime merchandise.” He reached down over 


160 


LEONARD CARPENTER 


the side as I handed up the ballasted cloth satchels of currency, the big 
one and the little one. He took them, and turned back up the pier. 

“Jack, tell them to kill that light!” I called after him. Feeling slightly 
uneasy, I turned to scan the seaward horizon. I saw only the gleam of 
moonlight on marching waves. 

Torrence confronted the islanders across the outspread bundles, hold- 
ing open the satchels for their inspection. He surrendered the larger bag 
to the chief Greek, then counted out bills from the smaller one, the 
glaring light from the cliff still playing down on the transaction. A mo- 
ment later the islanders, with nods of satisfaction, bent over the parcels 
by ones and twos and lifted them waist-high, grunting with the effort. 
They brought the heavy bundles out along the pier, and Castillo and I 
helped manhandle them down onto the rolling deck, to the accompani- 
ment of scraped knuckles and muffled curses. Torrence watched the load- 
ing idly, his hand lingering near the open mouth of the smaller money 
bag and the revolver we both knew it contained. 

Once the last of the Greeks had clambered back onto the pier, Torrence 
waved them a salute and leaped aboard. “All right, then, cast off!” As 
I gunned the engine and spun the wheel away to starboard, the islanders 
scurried to throw off the mooring lines, then stood waving in earnest 
farewell. 

So they were simple island folk after all; I laughed in relief as the 
breakers began to surge giddily under our keel. Once the big engine 
developed speed, the pitching steadied to a bone-jarring chop and the 
pier fell away swiftly behind us. I clapped Torrence on the shoulder as 
he knelt over the merchandise and waved a high-sign to Castillo in the 
stern. I turned to the wheel, breathing fine spray, exhilarated by the 
danger of running at high speed with no lights but the ghostly-dim 
cockpit dome. 

My elation was forgotten as a blinding glare blazed up just ahead, and 
a loudspeaker barked harshly in Greek for us to heave to. 

The spotlight shone from the bridge of a fast-running patrol boat. It 
loomed so close in front of us that I had to sheer off sharply to avoid a 
collision, sending Torrence and most of our unbelayed cargo sliding into 
the scupper. For a moment we took the impacts of the surf on our suddenly 
overweighted beam, rolling crazily until I corrected our course and re- 
duced speed. 

“It’s a customs patrol,” I called to the others. “They must have seen 
the lights at the landing! We’d better let them search us.” 

Torrence was cursing as he wrestled the largest chunk of stone back 
to the center of the deck and grabbed a coil of rope to lash it in place. 
“Not on your life,” he rasped to me over his shoulder. “We can lose 
’em — kick her up to full throttle!” 


TORSO 


161 


“Jack, don’t be stupid!” I kept the engine cranking just powerfully 
enough to maintain headway against the swells and steady the yacht. 
“They probably think we’re running drugs ... or guns for the Cypriot 
rebels, for god’s sake! For a few piddling archaeological relics they won’t 
even bother to impound the boat, if we’re lucky!” 

“Do as I tell you!” Torrence flashed a savage look to me as he knelt 
astride the burlap bundle, cinching the ropes tight with white-knuckled 
fists. “We can’t afford to lose this cargo. Get us out of here — now!” 

“Aye, Captain, if you say so!” I eased out the throttle steadily, bracing 
my legs against the intensifying chop. From our port stern quarter, where 
the patrol vessel had completed a wide turn to intercept us, arc-lamp 
beams slashed the sky with new urgency, accompanied by a fresh babble 
of amplified warnings. 

It took the larger craft longer to gain speed, so the distance widened 
rapidly at first. Then, just ahead and to starboard, I saw the top of a 
wave sliced neatly off. The swell beyond it exploded in a billow of spray, 
spattering us with brine as we passed under the plume. The slamming 
concussion of a deck gun was carried sharply to us on the breeze. 

“Torrence, this is crazy! They must think we’re P.L.O.!” 

My protests were blotted out by loud reports from close astern. Back- 
fires, I thought with some confusion — until, looking around, I saw that 
the Spaniard had taken up the shark rifle from its hiding place under 
the transom and was emptying it at the pursuing craft. 

“Castillo, you fool, hold your fire! That was only a warning shot!” As 
I watched, the brightest of the spotlights on the Greek ship flared sud- 
denly to darkness, shattered by gunfire. The youth turned and bran- 
dished his rifle, warbling a bullfighting cheer. 

“Alonzo, stay with the wheel, goddamn it!” Torrence jerked a final 
half-hitch tight to secure his relic. “We don’t dare let ’em catch us now.” 
He arose, stepping astern to take the rifle away from Castillo — but as 
he reached for it, a stream of yellow sparks raced toward us from the 
bridge of the distant vessel. 

The tracer fire tore into our stern, knocking splinters out of the rail 
and sending the Spaniard twisting forward on top of the cargo bundles. 
Torrence threw himself flat against the deck, aided by the boat’s dizzy 
lurch as I wrenched the wheel. As the Nereid yawed, I could see and hear 
the stream of flaring bullets spattering off into the sea to port. 

After that, there were more shot-plumes and rattling tracer bursts, 
but no more hits. The patrol ship couldn’t match our speed, and the lack 
of a spotlight had blinded her. I stayed at the helm, glancing back oc- 
casionally to see Torrence kneeling over Castillo, comforting the wounded 
boy — or was he only checking the stone artifacts for damage? Whatever 


162 


LEONARD CARPENTER 


those bundles contained, I told myself, it’d better be something very 
special. 

The Spaniard never made it to Athens. His body lies somewhere at 
the bottom of the Mediterranean, weighted down with the corner of an 
Ionic capital spoiled by thirty-caliber slugs. He lies, perhaps, amid a 
wrecked shipload of ancient amphorae delicately shaped to carry wine 
and olive oil, there to be nuzzled in the rippling blue light by disappointed 
dolphins who will never bear his trim, boyish form across the waves on 
their backs. 

The rest of the cargo fared well, as I learned when we took it to Tor- 
rence’s wharfside loft in the port of Piraeus. A few bullet-pocks and blood- 
stains, as Jack said callously to me, might even enhance the shipment’s 
value to jaded collectors — a remark which I found offensive. Our narrow 
escape, as it turned out, was the subject of yet another bitter quarrel 
between us, a further instance of his growing recklessness and willful- 
ness — or, in his terms, just another example of the niggling constraints 
I place on his behavior. 

“You can’t run a dependable business acting like some crazy Marielito 
smuggling drugs in Miami, Jack! It could just as well have been you or 
me who was killed.” I was being reckless myself, talking to him that 
way; but I’d steadied my nerves with gin bitters. “The Spaniard will be 
hard to replace.” 

“You really think he will? I don’t.” His glance at me was openly con- 
temptuous. “Just go trolling the sailors’ bars again, the way you generally 
do when I’m out of town.” 

“Swine! I certainly will!” I hate to be accused unjustly, and Castillo, 
though attractive, had never been a lover of mine. But then. Jack has 
never felt a need to play fair. For instance, he jokingly calls me Alonzo 
because of my grooming and my obvious worldliness, though my name 
is really Alan, and I’m from Wapping, south of London. He knows this 
and holds it over me ruthlessly in our private dealings, caricaturing me 
as some kind of proper English pansy, which is far from the truth. 

“Anyway,” I told him, “I don’t see what it is about this lot of miserable 
rubble that makes it worth the poor bastard getting killed.” 

He looked up from his treasure trove with a flash of irritation that 
made me thankful I wasn’t standing within his reach. “No, you don’t 
see!” he snapped at me. “That’s what makes me the dealer in rarities 
and you the boatboy.” 

This was the sort of foul temper he’d been inflicting on me more and 
more lately. But perhaps he was only suffering buyer’s remorse, and my 
remarks about the quality of the goods had rung all too true. It was, 
after all, a shabby, mixed assortment of relics; damaged stone statuary. 


TORSO 


163 


architectural fragments and weathered potsherds, all packed carefully 
by the islanders in old newsprint, fruit crates, and burlap. The dates on 
the newspapers indicated that the pieces had been garnered over a period 
of many years — no doubt the richest harvest by far to be had from the 
poor, depleted soil of a tiny island lost in the southern Cyclades. 

There were no forgeries in the lot, I could tell, but few real museum 
pieces either. The more massive architectural chunks suggested the pres- 
ence of a temple site somewhere on the island; that might warrant further 
investigation. But the best piece, the one that had caused the finders to 
send word out into the dim underworld of art smugglers, had no certain 
religious provenance. 

It was the limbless torso of a life-sized statue — nude and female, pos- 
sibly an Aphrodite. Its craftsmanship was exquisite, probably dating 
from the fourth century B.C. — finely polished, the flesh formed of creamy 
white marble and innocent of any carved drapery. The body contours 
looked softly naturalistic, shaped in a fluid, lifelike attitude; I could see 
why Torrence thought the piece had possibilities. He might be thinking 
of pulling off some marketing coup, such as passing it off as an original 
Praxiteles. Our fortune would be made, since the legendary sculptor’s 
works are known only from later and probably inferior Roman copies; 
an original would be of immense value. 

But such a ploy was unlikely, since, tragically for this piece, the limbs 
and head were all broken bluntly off near the trunk. The damage gave 
the statue a rude look of incompletion, entirely lacking the grace and 
careful balance of a modem sculpted torso. Viewed intact, the figure 
might once have approached the sublime, lordly poise of the Belvedere 
Apollo — but as it lay there in the waterfront loft, prostrate on the rum- 
pled, soiled burlap, it seemed to me little more than a chunk, an am- 
putated specimen salvaged for dull academic autopsy. 

Personally, of course. I’ve always preferred the male Greek statuary 
because of its heroic proportions and its robust, dynamic energy. The 
female figures are usually clothed, often aloof or staid-looking — possibly 
a reflection of the cultural values of the time. 

But of course. Jack differed with me on this, as he seemed to do in 
more and more things lately. I could see that he was fascinated by the 
statue, hovering over it, adjusting its position on the floor and regarding 
it intently from every possible angle. 

“You see how the artist managed to capture her casual, almost careless 
motion.” He ran his hand demonstratively along the flank of the torso, 
which curved in a sort of half-twist, probably indicating a seated or 
bending posture. 

“A little chubby for you, isn’t she?” I found myself teasing him. The 
form had that deceptive solidity of the female physique, which can appear 

164 LEONARD CARPENTER 


plump from some angles and wraith-thin from others simultaneously. 
It curved down from the swollen convexities of the breasts, through the 
diaphragm’s shaded, interblending hollows, to the hairless but plainly 
nubile fullness of the groin. The stubs of thighs were raised differentially 
and slightly parted. I couldn’t look at the piece very long before wrenching 
my eyes away in vague irritation; Torrence, on the other hand, couldn’t 
seem to get his fill of ogling it. 

“Here, Jack, watch out!” I moved to help him as he manhandled the 
heavy fragment upright against one of the crated cornice-pieces. “Be 
careful, don’t rupture yourself!” But to my astonishment, and at consid- 
erable risk of injury from the marble mass, he raised an arm to shove 
me back. 

“Keep off! I can manage by myself!” There was a look of deep mistrust 
in his eyes. 

“All right, have it your way. Crazy bugger!” I couldn’t imagine just 
what had needled him so, but I know better than to push Torrence when 
he’s ill-disposed. 

As the upshot of it all, I left him that night, saying it would be just 
for a while, but knowing it might be permanent. I took a room in the 
Cosmopole Hotel; he was going to go ahead and work his usual contacts 
to market the goods. They would be fairly lucrative for us, I could tell, 
and I had no worries about collecting my share. In spite of his faults. 
Jack always made sure that his business associates got what was coming 
to them. 

It was no great surprise when he called me a few days later, as casually 
as if nothing had happened between us, and told me he’d found a prospect: 
Leonard Burlingame, the American collector of antiquities. I arranged 
to meet them at the loft that evening and keep an eye on things. Not 
that the fat man seemed particularly dangerous, but I’ve always backed 
Torrence on negotiations. When you’re dealing in valuable property 
which you’ve no legal claim to, you can’t very well go running to the 
police for protection. 

I arrived early and waited outside in my Fiat, so I was able to watch 
the vintage Jaguar drive up and disgorge Leonard Burlingame. The low- 
slung car bobbed and strained on its springs as it was relieved of the 
collector’s considerable weight. He was made to look even bigger by the 
tropical sunset that blazed nearly full-sized from his garish Italian sport- 
shirt. I followed him discreetly up the inside stairway and arrived at the 
door as Torrence ushered him in, so as to be admitted just after him. 

“And so we find — disappointment. More pathetic scrabblings from 
peasant olive-orchards. Hello, Alan.” Burlingame was already roving 
among the pieces that were too big to be put away out of sight. He flushed 


TORSO 


165 


slightly, his jowls drooping, as he bent over to examine them, ignoring 
the false government seals and catalog marks Torrence had dressed them 
up with. “Hmm. These architectural fragments could possibly lead to 
something of interest. Where did you say you found them?” 

Neither of us volunteered an answer to his leading question, any more 
than we paid attention to his routine deprecation of the merchandise. 
Jack was methodically removing drawers full of smaller objects from a 
wall cabinet and placing them on the dining table. I half-sat on the edge 
of the littered desk by the door. 

“I’m asking two hundred thousand for the collection.” Jack lifted some 
medium-sized pieces from a cabinet and set them out on the felt display 
cloth. “Dollars, American. As you can see, there are some nice statuettes, 
here; and the decoration on this kylix is exquisite.” He spoke with sales- 
manlike confidence, flourishing his hand over the dusty, ill-assorted litter 
of painted potsherds as if the easy magic of his gesture could instantly 
refashion them into a shapely vase. “Finds like this are getting scarcer 
every year ...” 

Torrence was interrupted by groaning floor-beams as the fat man 
strode across the room, moving toward a draped object which stood 
against the far wall amid household furniture. His fingers swiftly plucked 
the dark fabric aside to reveal the marble female torso, polished now and 
paler, supported upright on a rectangular museum pedestal. 

“Ah, yes,” the collector breathed. He examined the statue silently for 
a long moment. “With this fragment, your mess of oddities might just 
warrant six figures.” He turned to Torrence, his plump hand lingering 
on the sculpture’s stone flank, which almost glowed in the soft light. “I’ll 
give a hundred and twenty thousand for the lot.” 

Long experience enabled me to hide my delight at Burlingame’s offer 
and maintain my cynical slouch against the desk, unruffled. But I was 
less prepared to hide my dismay at Torrence’s reply, barked sharply 
across the room. 

“That piece isn’t for sale! Just these items over here.” 

The fat man, visibly annoyed, squared around to face Jack. “What do 
you mean, not for sale? Have you suddenly gone into art collecting as 
well as smuggling?” His plump hand hovered on the smooth marble 
surface, revealing more about his feelings than his quick, beady eyes 
would ever show. “It’s not already sold, is it?” He shot a quick glance 
back to the torso, his jowls trembling in agitation. “If so, what’s it doing 
here? How much were you offered?” 

My own poker face had frozen over again, as I understood the action. 
I admired Jack’s quick thinking; now he would call in the deal at the 
full two hundred, or even raise his asking price. 


166 


LEONARD CARPENTER 


But when he answered, his voice had an unbusinesslike edge. “I told 
you, it’s not for sale. Now take your hands off and get away from it!” 

“What?” Burlingame squinted, letting his fleshy paw fall from the 
statue to his side. “What are you trying to pull?” He advanced across the 
floor, making tremors I could feel where I sat. “Name your price and I’ll 
think about it.” His ill temper included a nasty side-glance to me. “Unlike 
some of us here, I don’t like being jacked around!” 

“There is no price on that piece.” Visibly shrugging aside his anger, 
Torrence tried to shift smoothly back to earnest salesmanship, jamming 
the gears a bit as he did so. “Now, if you only want part of the collection, 
the price I mentioned can be adjusted downward.” His attempt at an 
easy smile nearly succeeded. “Of course, I won’t be able to offer you the 
same volume discount ...” 

“Damn it. I’m not interested in your miserable haggling!” Leonard 
Burlingame shuffled to a ponderous halt in front of Torrence. “I came 
here to deal, the same as I always have. If I want to look at pretty statues. 
I’ll go to the Parthenon, not to some faggot fence’s loft!” Wheezing out 
bottomless disgust, he pushed on past Jack toward me and the door, 
pausing once to grunt over his shoulder, “Don’t bother calling me again, 
unless it’s about that torso.” 

I stood tense as he shambled by, wary of his size, but even more worried 
about a possible reaction from Jack. My shipmate doesn’t like having his 
sexual habits thrown up in his face; I’ve seen him provoked to violence 
by it more than once. This time he only stood frozen-faced as the door 
thudded shut. 

After locking out the heavy sound of the fat man’s retreating footsteps, 
I turned back to Torrence. He was silent, having crossed the room to 
replace the black drapery over his cherished statue. In view of our special 
relationship, strained as it had been lately, I dared to vent a little of my 
own exasperation. 

“Really, Jack, I don’t understand you! Leonard Burlingame is our best 
customer! He’s no one to fool around with — he could put quite a lot of 
heat on us with a single phone call!” 

“Not without risk to himself” Jack stood watching me put away the 
specimen drawers. “Anyway, I have my own understanding with the 
local authorities.” 

“Yes, so far! But what if that crazy Spaniard killed somebody aboard 
the revenue boat? Have you thought about that? They could be tracking 
us down right now.” I hefted a foot-long, legless bronze horse and laid 
it back inside a cabinet. “This merchandise is too dangerous to stockpile 
very long. If you have a buyer for the torso, we ought to move it out as 
soon as we can — though I can’t imagine who’d pay more for it than 
Burlingame, the way he was drooling just now ...” 


TORSO 


167 


“Damn it, Alonzo, there is no buyer! And there won’t be, not for a 
while, at least! I intend to keep the statue on hand ... for study.” He 
paced the floor angrily, casting sidelong glances at me like a surly, caged 
lion. “If you have some objection to that ...” 

“I most certainly do! I didn’t get myself shot at just so that you could 
be proud owner of that buxom piece of bric-a-brac!” I surprised myself 
with my firmness in confronting him — but at least he was talking to me 
now, after days of neglect. “We’re in business together, remember; that 
statue belongs to me, too! I can’t believe you intend to keep it here just 
to ogle it ... ” 

“Are you trying to hint that I have another deal going on the side?” 
Torrence regarded me, his face closing off dangerously. “Or that I’m 
trying to cheat you somehow?” 

“No, Jack, of course not!” I moved back against the table, averting my 
eyes to keep from betraying too much emotion. “I know you’re taken 
with that particular statue; that’s obvious.” Regaining my poise, I looked 
straight into his greenish eyes. “It’s just that I’m worried about you. 
You’ve been taking a lot of chances, and now this.” I took a tentative 
step toward him. “What’s bothering you. Jack? Is there anything I can 
do?” 

“No.” He shook his head, but he didn’t turn from my approach. “I’m 
just trying to get the measure of that statue — there’s something about 
it.” He sighed and walked a few steps across the room, sinking down on 
his couch of soft, tan leather. “If I even had a clue what it was worth. 
I’d offer to buy out your share. It could be the real thing, you know — the 
highest flowering of Grecian classical art!” He glanced to the sculpture 
where it stood, the soft drapery deeply indented by the figure’s cleavage 
and rumpled by its nether parts. “I’d hate to turn it over to scum like 
Burlingame, and then live to be told it’s even greater than the Hermes, 
greater than Demeter, greater than anything yet found!” He shook his 
head in impatient futility. “A goddamned shame it’s so smashed up; I’d 
love to get my hands on the motherless bastard who ...” 

“Come on. Jack, you’ve never let that worry you before.” I sat down 
on the arm of the sofa beside him, laying a calming hand on his shoulder. 
“God knows, we’ve demolished enough art treasures ourselves — like dy- 
namiting those ruins in Tunisia, and throwing whole cargos overboard 
to prepare for searches ...” 

Torrence shrugged out from under my hand impatiently. ‘This is dif- 
ferent, Alan, don’t you see? It could be the find of a lifetime.” He shook 
his head in exasperation. “The damned thing’s gotten to me, I admit it. 
I even have . . . dreams about it.” 

I watched him attentively, giving him as much physical comfort as I 
could without actually embracing him. His anger was almost spent — I’d 

168 LEONARD CARPENTER 


gone through it many times before, putting up with his whims, his in- 
decision, his sudden, inexplicable rages. It was worth it, I knew, as I 
admired his clean-shaven good looks, his crewcut blond scalp fringed 
with golden lamplight. 

I think my attraction to Torrence was that he was a real man, tre- 
mendously forceful and concentrated in his mind and body — far more so 
than my gangling, ungainly self. He’d lived through hardships, I knew: 
his father’s violence, his endless troubles with women, and his seagoing 
adventures; some of it made our recent experiences sound tame. 

And of course, the very manliness that made him so alluring also made 
him dangerous. He had the uneasy volatility of “rough trade,” always 
vulnerable to female as well as male charms, unsure of his own sexuality, 
and often fiercely resentful of me for trying to force a commitment. If I 
ever lost him, I knew, it wouldn’t be to a man. His uncertainty caused 
him a lot of pain, and might be the source of the crisis he’d been going 
through lately. But his suffering didn’t have to continue, I told myself; 
I wanted to heal him, to make it better for him any way I could. So I sat 
listening without interrupting him as he told me of his dream. 

“I’m on one of the southern islands at night, in a Greek temple lit 
brightly by moonlight. Not a ruin, it’s all new-looking — there are painted 
urns and period furniture set out, and gauzy curtains hanging in some 
of the archways, fluttering in the night breeze. I’m walking along a 
corridor, passing one moonlit arch after another. Then I come to the last 
archway and turn into it. There, lying on a divan in the middle of the 
room is . . . her, the woman in the sculpture.” He looked to the draped 
torso standing nearby. 

“I can recognize her from the shape of her body alone, but her arms 
and legs and face are perfect, just as beautiful. She’s sleeping naked in 
the moonlight, her coverlet thrown onto the ground because the breeze 
is so warm, with one arm raised above her head to shade her eyes from 
the moon. She’s not a statue — her abdomen is rising and falling ever so 
softly as she breathes. Her hair is real — in her groin, and armpits, and 
on her head, tight curls gathered into a bun at the back, with a few 
ringlets hanging loose at the side of her face. The moonlight on her skin 
is almost blinding — God, she’s beautiful! 

“I reach out and put my hand on the shallow curve of her waist; to my 
touch it feels warm and silky. She stirs a little and sighs — only a woman 
can sigh like that, so softly! Then she awakens and opens her eyes. 

“Her face is expressionless, and her eyes . . . they’re not real. Just dry 
white surfaces, as if they were filmed over by ancient cataracts, or carved 
like statues’ eyes, out of marble. They’re hideous, those two blind, staring 
stones! She smiles up at me, blindly, it’s impossible to tell whether she 


TORSO 


169 


sees me or not. There’s nothing there, no soul ...” Torrence shook his 
head, anguish straining his voice and the lines of his face. 

“Then I wake up.” 

He sat there, shaken enough to prove to me that he’d just relived it 
all. I commiserated with him, trying to draw him out about what I saw 
as the deeper meaning of the dream, the harm he’d suffered from women, 
comforting him as best I could. He was more receptive to me than he’d 
been for a long time, and later that night we renewed our former close- 
ness. It was good again; the next day I got my belongings from the hotel 
and moved back into Torrence’s loft. 

Knowing how he felt, I could scarcely tell him how deeply I’d come to 
resent his infatuation with that hideous statue. It would have been easier 
for me to take, really, if he’d nailed a poster of a big-breasted female 
whore on the ceiling over our bed. But I’d surrendered nearly all of my 
former control over Torrence for the sake of continuing our relationship; 
I had to be content just to throw the dropcloth back over the disgusting 
thing whenever he left. For the time being I concentrated on getting him 
to sell the balance of the artifacts, in the hope that he’d get a sufficiently 
overwhelming offer for the torso from Leonard Burlingame. It didn’t 
seem to me that he was making much effort to find buyers. 

But it was worse than I thought. One sultry autumn evening, he was 
unusually late getting home. I’d prepared dinner, only to spend an hour 
or more debating whether to eat my own share on principle and go to 
bed, or wait up for him. I was beginning to worry that he might’ve fallen 
into bad company, with some boozy dockside tart, when I finally heard 
his footfalls on the stair. He let himself in, followed by a tall, well-dressed 
Greek male, distinguished-looking, with curly black hair and a graying 
mustache. 

“Alonzo, this is Professor Stavropoulos, Doctor of Antiquities at Athens 
University. Professor, this is my business associate.” Torrence spoke in 
passable Greek, nodding curtly as he led his guest past me across the 
room. “Here’s the art object I wanted your advice on. It strikes me as 
having a true classic quality.” He smirked slightly to his guest, in credible 
imitation of a dilettante art-buyer. “I couldn’t resist making the invest- 
ment, but of course, the dealer may have misrepresented it to me.” 

Turning to the marble hulk with the quite genuine and irritatingly 
reverent manner he’d acquired, he lifted the drapery. 

“Aha.” Dr. Stavropoulos finished his somewhat dubious examination 
of our loft, its contents, and myself, and turned his bushy-browed eyes 
to the statue. “Hmmm.” He squinted, giving it a quick up-and-down 
appraisal. As I recovered from my shock that Torrence would expose our 


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operation to such a dangerous outsider, I edged closer, unsurprised to 
find that the professor spoke English more precisely than either of us. 

“This is an exquisite example of classical art ... or it was.” The look 
that Stavropoulos turned on Jack had a probing sharpness in it. “Any 
fears you may have had were unfounded, Mr. Torrence; you need not 
have worried over the wisdom of your investment.” 

Jack was nodding earnestly, his eyes fixed on the statue. “I’d guess 
the fourth century b.c.e., then. Don’t you agree? The dawn of Hellenism, 
and the highest expression of classical style.” 

“No doubt.” The professor looked from the statue to Torrence with 
unmistakable skepticism. “Whoever your dealer is, he has . . . unusual 
resources. I should certainly be acquainted already with this piece; but 
I do not remember seeing it in the catalogs.” Stavropoulos bent to ex- 
amine the painted markings on the stub-end of a thigh. 

“Oh, it wouldn’t have come from the mainland.” Jack turned his at- 
tention back to his guest in an overly casual effort to calm his suspicions. 
‘They told me it was from one of the small islands, I can’t recall the 
name. Of course, in those days the classical influence had spread to every 
corner of the known world.” 

“That is true, in part.” Stavropoulos’s air grew pedagogic. “But Mr. 
Torrence, you must remember that, by modern standards, the Greek 
empire was itself practically a wilderness.” The professor had turned, 
facing Jack to dispute some scholarly point that he, presumably, under- 
stood. ‘The remote islands were cut off even more utterly than they are 
today. They were seen as lands of mystery and danger, peopled by Greeks 
who spoke different dialects and worshipped bizarre local gods. That is 
the source of most of the fantastic myth and legendry that has come down 
to us. For example, it was almost certainly highly developed sculpture 
like this — ” the professor gestured to the torso at his side “ — that gave 
rise to folk tales of gods and enchantresses possessing the power to turn 
living humans into stone, or to breathe life into statues. 

“In a way, that may be the greatest gift the ancient Hellenes left us, 
greater even than philosophy or mathematics: the notion of humanlike 
gods, motivated by human desires and shaped in man’s image, or vice 
versa. It took great arrogance for man to conceive of himself as looking 
like a god. The older, primitive gods tend to have animal shapes and 
attributes, you know — as in the case of fauns, centaurs, and gorgons, 
which were demoted by the Greeks to the status of minor sprites, and 
later by the Christians to devils. The older ideas persisted in Zeus’s power 
to transform himself into an animal, and in the farm animals who 
watched over the births of Mithra and Christ.” 

Pausing a moment, Stavropoulos frowned and shook his head with an 
air of getting back to the business at hand. “Indeed, the past is an endless 


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source of wonder and mystery.” He turned his gaze more pointedly at us. 
“The sad thing is, how rapidly it is being depleted and despoiled in 
modern times. The great book of the past may soon be completely erased 
by vandals and archaeological plunderers.” 

His glance from Torrence to me was sternly accusatory. Although I’d 
formed no clear notion of what we might do if the situation got out of 
control, I felt my body tensing instinctively as he continued: “A respon- 
sible collector should refuse to do business with shady dealers who lack 
proper credentials and government certification for their wares, Mr. Tor- 
rence. All such dealers should be reported to the authorities.” 

Precisely what I’d feared; watching the prim, well-dressed academic 
nervously, I could imagine that he lorded it over a plush suburban villa, 
three spoiled children, and a plump, dutiful wife. He couldn’t possibly 
have any understanding of the shadow world Jack and I moved in, no 
inkling of our needs, much less any sympathy for us. 

Torrence, though, had failed to meet the professor’s eye, conveying a 
disarming impression of honest embarrassment. “Yes, I suppose I should 
check my sources more carefully. I’ll do it from now on.” He flashed an 
artless smile. “But then, in a case like this, there hasn’t been any great 
harm done. If the piece is genuine, it can still be preserved and docu- 
mented.” 

Doctor Stavropoulos snorted, his mustache bristling in a frown of 
boundless cynicism. “No harm — except that the statue might be intact 
now if it had been properly excavated and handled.” 

Torrence stared up expressionlessly at him for a moment. “What do 
you mean?” 

“I mean that this damage is recent.” Stavropoulos touched two fingers 
to the stub of a broken marble shoulder. “There is no weathering on these 
fractures . . . and no patina, see here? The breaks are clean. They were 
made in modern times, probably by the statue’s finders. After all, smaller 
pieces are easier to smuggle out of the country, where they almost always 
command higher prices.” 

“Mother of Christ!” Torrence swung his gaze back to the statue, his 
face visibly draining of blood. Numb- looking, he sank back onto the arm 
of the sofa and sat there a long time, his jaw muscles working but without 
saying anything. 

To fill the silence, I volunteered, “I’ll get you a drink. Professor.” I 
went feverishly to work at the bar, trying to make trivial conversation 
with the Greek to distract him from my partner. Both men accepted 
drinks from me, but Torrence’s didn’t noticeably improve his condition 
of stunned self-absorption. In fact, he began muttering disjointed phrases 
and curses under his breath, obviously building to some kind of outburst. 


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Stavropoulos was watching him with dismay and suspicion, so I thought 
it best to escort the professor out of there. 

“Your news is quite a shock to my friend,” I apologized to him on our 
way out the door, putting on my best British charm. “He’s extremely 
taken with that statue, as you can see.” To smooth things over further, 
I took him to a cafe to get more ouzo, talked him up for an hour or two 
and left him climbing tipsily into a streetcar. My devoutest hope was 
that he would fall into the harbor before reaching home, or else lose all 
memory of the night’s events. 

Once I was alone, I stopped for another drink to fortify myself against 
my impending confrontation. I had to think, and be prepared. Torrence 
was hard enough to handle in everyday situations, but now he seemed 
obsessed in a way that was sure to endanger both of us, like a wild west 
prospector with gold fever. Whether it was due to some mental weakness 
of his or some strange property of the torso itself, I couldn’t decide. 

Not that I hadn’t heard of it happening before; smugglers and treasure 
hunters were never the most stable sort of person, and some of the relics 
they unearth definitely have a haunting aspect. These usually were the 
ones finally discarded. I’d been told — the anomalies that didn’t fit known 
categories well enough to be catalogued and expensively priced. If a 
strange metal polyhedron was found in a Mayan tomb, for instance, or 
a smooth, polished stone mask at a central African site, seeming to defy 
the styles and technical limitations of the period — how could such an 
object credibly be merchandised? Without the detailed documentation of 
an accredited “dig,” it might be nearly worthless; yet these were the very 
discoveries that fascinated their finders, costing them time and money 
and sometimes their sanity in fruitless quests for their origins. 

The broken torso had the look of just such a “graverobber’s jinx”; when 
I thought about it, I realized that it had the timeless, eerie quality of 
something utterly out-of-place. How, I wondered, could I cope with it and 
save Torrence from a downward slide? What could I offer him as an 
alternative? 

I decided I already had the answer — love, trust, and support would 
help him through this crisis, if anything could. I was prepared to give 
him those things. And so I returned to the loft late that night, to find 
an unspeakable stench in the air and a dead body on the floor. 

The corpse was that of Leonard Burlingame; the fat man had made 
quite a mess when he died. Apparently it had taken four bullets to stop 
him, and some of them had ruptured his distended abdomen, releasing 
not only blood but all the foul-smelling biles and humors collected inside 
his massive body. 

Torrence was blithely ignoring the corpse and its smell, cleaning his 

TORSO 173 


gun at our dining table. “The fool tried to shake me down for the Aphrod- 
ite, can you believe it? He brought some smart-assed dockside punk with 
him, and a briefcase with a hundred thousand dollars in it! Or so he 
claimed — he was dead set on buying the torso from me, whether I wanted 
to sell it to him or not!” He sat carefully reloading the revolver. “He was 
getting ugly, so ^ had to shoot him; his hoodlum got away with the cash.” 
Arising, Torrence stuffed the sanitized revolver in his belt and went to 
the sink. I stood there, shaking my head. 

“Jack, I don’t understand this! You turned down a hundred thousand 
dollars for the statue, and then killed the buyer?” Choking, I managed 
to resist saying what I really thought, that his actions sounded insane. 
“Jack, listen to me! We’ve never been in this deep before; what if his 
partner goes to the police?” 

“Don’t worry about that. He’s rich now, he’ll never blow the whistle.” 
Jack stood at the sink, washing his hands up to the elbows to remove 
any trace of cordite. “Alonzo, believe me, that amount of money is nothing 
compared to what this statue is worth!” He nodded to the torso where 
it stood on its pedestal over Burlingame’s body, its ravished, fallen dra- 
pery still clutched in the dead man’s stubby fingers. “You heard what 
that professor said — she’s the find of the century!” 

“Jack, she’s damaged goods! You’re letting your emotions get the better 
of you! Who cares that much about a broken chunk of marble?” 

Throwing aside his hand towel, he turned to me with a smoldering 
look. “You heard Stavropoulos, Alan; I was an idiot not to see it myself! 
Those damned islanders stiffed us, they’re the ones who broke up the 
statue! Once we find the missing parts, we’ll be the owners of the most 
precious art object in the world!” 

Confronted by his blazing eyes and clenched jaw, I didn’t dare dispute 
the point. “And how are we going to find the broken pieces?” 

Jack was already turning aside from me to rummage in the pantry for 
a mop and bucket. “By going back to the island. Right now, tonight, once 
we clean up this putrid garbage! Athens is too hot for us now, anyway!” 

And so Leonard Burlingame was the next adventurer to go into the 
dank shadow-world of the Mediterranean. Undoubtedly he made a rich 
feast for the crabs and octopi lurking there, if any can still live at the 
bottom of the murky, oily harbor of Piraeus. At first we feared that his 
immense body would never sink, that the coping-stones lashed to his 
neck and ankles were inadequate ballast for his downward voyage. We 
waited on the wharf, watching the pale ghost of his garish bloodstained 
shirt float and bob in the water beneath us. Then slowly it receded into 
blackness. The bursting of a last few, flatulent bubbles told us that the 
collector was finally gone. 


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Spurred on by Torrence’s restless energy, we prepared to put out to 
sea before dawn. Not much preparation was needed, since we kept the 
Nereid fueled and provisioned for flight on short notice; it was only a 
matter of gathering our clothing, weapons, and cash from the loft. 

Our greatest disagreement was over Jack’s insistence on taking the 
torso with us. I regarded it as a pointless danger and told him so. “Why 
should we have to lug this ballast along? It links us to this place and to 
the killing!” 

“I want to be able to verify the broken pieces when we find them,” 
Jack answered, slipping a padded canvas bag over the upright sculpture. 
“Anyway, Burlingame’s thug knows we have it and has some idea of its 
value. It would hardly be safe to leave it here.” 

“Do you really think the islanders will simply turn over the missing 
pieces to us? What if they took them to the mainland and sold them off 
years ago?” 

“Then I’ll find out who they sold ’em to, the sons of bitches!” Torrence 
hefted the bulging duffelbag himself with surprising strength, lurching 
beneath it unsteadily nevertheless, until I caught him and bore up some 
of the weight. “I think they were planning to sell her to me piece by 
piece,” he rasped angrily over the statue into my ear, “the way Italian 
kneecappers do with their hostages! But if they try to gouge me for more 
money, they’ve got a surprise coming!” 

We transferred our gear to the boat, revved the motor, and cast off. I 
was emotionally committed to staying with Torrence — and even though 
my doubts were multiplying by the minute, it would hardly have been 
safe to try to leave him just then. As we cruised out through languid, 
oily waters into the shipping channel, I pointed out the rosy tinge in the 
dawning eastern sky. “If a storm blows up,” I told him, “we’ll have to 
make for one of the bigger islands. We’ll need a safer harbor than 
Heksos.” 

“Not if I can help it. I don’t want to be seen and remembered in any 
of the neighboring ports, in case we run into more trouble on the island.” 
Jack stood at the wheel, his eyes scanning the pale lights of vessels under 
weigh in the gulf. “We can refuel at Serifos; that’ll give us enough range 
to get in and out of Heksos fast. You go below and sleep until then.” 

The weather held, but just barely. All day ragged scatterings of cloud 
gathered overhead and dispersed, darkening to an ominous slate color 
where they massed thickest. As we took turns tending the wheel in the 
open half-cabin, stray gusts of wind struck and buffeted at the yacht 
with contemptuous familiarity. The weather reports didn’t exactly warn 
of a full-blown storm, but there was an unspoken fatalism in their tone 


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that reminded me how treacherous and unpredictable the Mediterranean 
could be in this season. 

Our refueling stop was brief and businesslike, but the detour carried 
us into a headwind. By midafternoon, cruising in the teeth of whitecaps 
and windbome spray, I was begging Torrence to turn back to Serifos, 
but he wouldn’t hear of it. He hardly rested, staying doggedly at the 
wheel or else loitering by my side to keep me from changing course 
during my watches. As the sky darkened with overcast and gathering 
dusk, he sat against the motor housing near the canvas-bundled statue 
we’d lashed amidships, keeping his hand near his coat pocket, which 
sagged with the weight of a gun. 

Too late I understood that good seamanship, sound business sense, 
even long, close friendship didn’t matter any more. It was obsession time, 
purely a case of Jack’s fixation on that disfigured torso and whatever it 
meant in the shadowy depths of his mind. He’d resolved to own it, and 
he would throw both our lives away to find its missing parts, for what 
inner reason I couldn’t guess. Perhaps the sculpture had some psycho- 
logical meaning for him, a prop to his fiercely guarded manhood. Perhaps 
he even deluded himself that he could summon it to mystical life, Pyg- 
malion-like; God knew he’d hinted to me of just such fantasies when he’d 
awakened on recent nights, tense and sweating from morbid dreams. 

Whatever the secret of Torrence’s fixation, it obviously tapped into 
deep reserves of reckless violence in his nature. If I gave him any cause, 
that destructive force could easily be unleashed against me. There was 
no way to stop him short of killing or crippling him, and that I could 
never bring myself to do. 

So, as murky twilight deepened to night, I drove the Nereid through 
mounting surf into the cove on the western side of the isle of Heksos. A 
foolhardy move; but then, the yacht and her crew had suffered much ill 
luck lately. Mindful of the buxom bundle lashed to our deck, I couldn’t 
help recalling the ancient seafaring prohibition against carrying women 
on shipboard. 

Once inside the bay, we found the shelving water more turbulent than 
the open sea and far choppier than during our previous visit. It was no 
easy task to maneuver the small craft alongside the battered quay. “We’d 
better find out what we need to know tonight,” I told Torrence as he 
hauled the slack out of the mooring line, “so we can get out of here and 
find a decent harbor before the weather breaks. Better to risk a storm 
out in the middle of the Med than in this surf Our anchor could never 
hold.” 

“Fine,” Torrence said absently, with the air of someone slightly out of 
touch with reality. “I know my way around the island, so you can stay 
here with the boat; make sure it doesn’t pound itself to bits against this 


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pier.” To my surprise, I saw that he was wrestling the tote-goat out of 
the equipment locker. The battered mini-cycle with its stubby wheels, 
one-cylinder engine, and low-slung luggage rack had proven useful on 
past occasions for transporting loads to the boat from points inland. It 
was.light enough for him to lift overside onto the quay by himself, and 
he did so. 

“You’re planning to bring back more chunks of the statue tonight with 
that thing?” I asked him. 

“Could be.” He turned to the lashings of the main fragment on deck. 
“Right now, I need it to take the Aphrodite along with me.” 

“What? Are you insane?” His sudden glare silenced me, until I was 
able to ask more reasonably, “Jack, what could you possibly want with 
that relic on the island? You’re in more danger of losing it there ...” 

I fell silent, realizing that my words meant no more to him than the 
spatter of raindrops that was passing across the deck just then. His 
obsession still ruled him, with reason playing little or no part. Quite 
likely, I told myself, he didn’t trust me alone with the statue. Or it alone 
with me, perhaps . . . ? A strange notion, one that proved just how little 
I understood my friend’s interior workings. 

“All right, then take it.” Mindful of the brisk weather rolling in over 
the bow, I bent to the lashings to hurry Torrence along. 

Later I kept busy shifting frayed, water-filled tires along the rusty 
cable that ringed the quay, lashing them in place to protect the Nereid’s 
hull as best I could. I checked the boat’s storm seals and bilge pumps, 
tasks which became more significant as night deepened. The waves 
surged higher, the wind veered westerly and new rain squalls pattered 
overhead. 

Even though the radio reports from Athens remained noncommittal, 
I could scarcely doubt the obvious local signs. A terrific blow was in store, 
in fact almost upon us. With conditions worsening, I couldn’t wait; it 
wasn’t more than an hour after I heard the motorbike laboring out of 
earshot around the curves of the cliff path that I set out on its trail, 
looking for Torrence. 

Of course, I could have taken the boat out to sea myself in the hope 
of saving it. It might have been possible to reach Milos alone, even Naxos 
with luck. After the storm I could return to get Jack, if I dared, and 
explain that I’d only been protecting our sizable investment in the 
yacht ... if he was still alive by then. But I feared for his safety here 
among the islanders in his unstable mental state. 

If others could have obsessions, I decided, then so could I; mine was 
Torrence. My feelings for him were all the stronger now that they’d been 
challenged by some unknown, insidious force. Statue or no statue, I 


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177 


couldn’t put to sea without him. I set off up the trail at a jog, leaving the 
Nereid straining and wallowing at the end of her cruelly short tether. 
I knew I might not get back to her in time, if at all. 

The path was gradual, worn deep into pale, rocky earth by centuries 
of sandals and bare, rough soles. It wound past bowers and lookouts that 
might have been lovely if not shrouded by night and harsh weather. 
Grass and low shrubs shivered damply in the breeze, while cypresses 
moved uneasily at the top of the path. Here and there my electric torch 
lit up rain-spattered sections of the tote-goat’s track, proving I was 
headed the right way. 

The tire tracks skirted a cluster of farm cottages at the clifftop, veering 
to one side across a shallow drainage ditch. I followed, panting from the 
swift climb, wondering whether the sound of the passing motorcycle had 
alerted the islanders. The sighing of wind in the cypress boughs may 
have been enough to mask the noise from listening ears. A dog began 
to bark monotonously, and I thought I heard other stirrings, but no light 
shone from the hamlet. I screened my own torch, keeping it pointed away 
from the huts looming silently there in the dark. 

A cautious dozen meters beyond the town, I found myself on a wide 
track that seemed to angle inland from the coast. I resumed my jogging 
pace, slowing at places where I thought Torrence might have turned off 
onto trails or rocky meadows beside the road. But the scooter, burdened 
with the marble torso, had left deep impressions to guide me forward. 

As I went, my mind worked furiously. This night-quest was still a mad 
riddle to me, and yet I thought I could begin to see the shadowy outlines 
of Torrence’s compulsion. The stone statue seemed to appeal to his re- 
pressed drives, whether they were basically sexual ones or mother-re- 
lated yearnings. Like a lamia, the demoness of ancient myth, the torso 
seemed to have an uncanny ability to prey on men — but only on those 
who had been sexually weakened. Hence the uncontrollable lust it had 
aroused in Leonard Burlingame; the collector, trapped and thwarted 
inside the ponderous shell of himself, saw in the truncated statue a safe 
object for his desires, a crude female thing he could possess and love 
better than any living woman. Torrence, on the other hand, seemed to 
see in it a hope of redemption, a last chance to prove his maleness and 
escape the sexual underworld that I knew his life with me represented 
to him. Maybe, in trying to piece the statue back together, he was really 
seeking to reassemble the fragments of his own shattered life. I could 
sympathize with him, but at the same time I could see the danger his 
obsession posed, both to himself and to anyone who happened to get in 
his way. 

Blown along by the tempest, I walked and ran a full kilometer before 
the road ended at another stone cottage, huddled pale against a hillside 


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terraced with grapestocks and olive trees. Coming to a gasping halt, I 
thought I could see yellow light wavering in the curtained front window. 
A sharp, intermittent sound came to my ears: the cottage door banging 
open and shut in the gusting wind. 

Flashing my light around the farmstead, I saw no sign of Torrence or 
his scooter, although the tire tracks seemed to lead straight to the house. 
Striving to quiet my laboring breath, I pocketed my torch, crept silently 
up to the dim-lit doorway, and looked in. A moment later I slipped inside 
and bolted the door behind me. 

The figure on the floor wasn’t Torrence, I could see as I rolled him 
over. He was an elderly Greek, bronze-skinned and bushy-haired in the 
kerosene lamplight, possibly one of the men who had come down to the 
boat on our previous trip. But his face was badly swollen from a beating, 
and his heroic nose was stained wetly with blood. He was in bad shape, 
his breath coming in weak gasps, shirt torn open at the front to reveal 
red welts on his chest. These, I realized with a queasy shock, were burns 
from the wood stove glowing in the corner; the old man had not only 
been beaten, he’d been tortured. 

I eased a chair-cushion beneath his head; then I brought a towel and 
a pitcher of water from the pantry to revive him. At first he was insensible 
to the touch of the damp cloth; then he moaned and struggled, awakening 
directly from oblivion to panic. Finally I splashed some of the water 
between his lips and managed to calm him, cradling his quaking shoul- 
ders. I asked him in Greek where the American had gone. 

“The American, yes.” For the first time his eye, the one that wasn’t 
swollen shut, focused on me with a look of recognition. “Your friend. 
Jack ... a bad man, very bad ... I warn him, I not show him the place. 
It is sacred to the old ways . . . the power still too strong ...” his gaze 
faltered away from mine as he sagged toward unconsciousness. 

I shook him, asking again where Torrence was, a cold, tight part of 
my brain wondering if I’d have to resort to the hot stove myself. But he 
fought his way back to awareness, his feeble mutterings taking on more 
urgency. “The statue, he brought it back! We don’t want it, too much 
danger . . . you stop him. No man should lose his soul.” The islander’s 
head thrashed from side to side in my arms. “He don’t know the power 
of the spell . . . warn him, do not let him ...” I leaned my ear close 
against his bruised lips as he rambled on, giving me the directions Tor- 
rence had already wrung out of him. I demanded clarifications, making 
him repeat his faint answers until I was satisfied. Then, dragging him 
into the back room and hoisting him up onto his bed, I left him as 
comfortable as I could. 

Outside a half-gale was blowing, hurling volleys of rain against the 
western slope of the island. The storm had finally come, heralded by a 


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low, intermittent tremor of thunder to seaward. I hitched up my collar 
and set out, saying a silent prayer for the Nereid and for ourselves. With 
the wind like this, it might already be too late to escape the breakers at 
the mouth of the cove. 

I walked around the cottage and started climbing the terraced hillside. 
Striding with the wind at my back, I was able to mount straight up the 
rock-walled terraces instead of following the staggered series of ramps 
that Torrence must have used. Branches lashed wildly in the dark, and 
dried olives rolled treacherously underfoot. I ran onward into the rain- 
sleeted beam of my torch, with occasional flashes of lightning over the 
slate-dark sea helping me keep my bearings. 

At the top of the orchard the slope grew steeper and rockier; but as 
the old Greek had promised, a path led off to one side along an upward- 
trending crevice of land. In time this deepened into a ravine, as I saw 
when a nearby lightning stroke revealed rock walls beetling over me on 
either hand. Wheel-sized furrows imprinted in the windblown weeds 
assured me that I was still following Torrence, though in my breathless 
haste I would have missed any smaller sign. At one point, 1 thought 1 
heard the nasal roar of the scooter echoing in the gorge ahead; but it 
may only have been the wind soughing over jagged cliffs, or my own 
breath laboring in my throat. 

As the path sought out the heights, I continued thinking about Tor- 
rence and what I could say when I found him. 1 puzzled over the breaking 
up of the statue; the old man’s warnings had been vague and incoherent, 
yet they seemed to imply that the relic had been disfigured not for the 
sake of smuggling or a more profitable sale, but because of the dreaded 
power of the goddess; obviously she still had power, if only over the 
islanders’ superstitious minds. I wondered what eerie charm or stunning 
beauty the statue might manifest in its whole form and, more important, 
what effect it would have on Torrence’s uneasy mental balance. 

All at once the trail grew level, and the sky opened out above me. Not 
that I could see it; rather I could sense it, a starless, invisible chaos of 
wind and rain swirling overhead. I knew 1 was approaching an eminence, 
probably the central spine of Heksos. Gradually the trees and rocks 
retreated from the path on either side, and dim sky-flickerings revealed 
the opening of a glade or natural amphitheater amid steep slopes. Walk- 
ing forward, I discerned a yellow, stationary glow through the stunted 
trees that 1 quickly recognized as Torrence’s bike headlamp. 

“Jack! It’s me, Alan! Are you there?” 

As I walked forward, weak with exertion and staggered by the driving 
force of wind and rain, I could make out a scatter of white marble stones 
ahead. A few stubs of standing columns jutted like undershot fangs at 
the mouth of a cave or spring set deep in the hillside. The ruined shrine 


180 


LEONARD CARPENTER 


lay against the base of the hill, with scrub trees and drooping vines 
rooted here and there in the rocky soil above it. 

There also appeared to be a dark-clad human figure stooping there. 
And yes, it was Torrence; I saw his square shoulder and crewcut spot- 
lighted as he leaned near the beam of the scooter headlamp. The light 
shone steadily on the undraped marble torso lying recumbent in the rain, 
glistening as damply white as the skin of any virgin pinioned for sacrifice 
on a heathen altar. Jack labored over the torso, dragging other stones 
into place. Long, thin pieces, not really visible in the rain-dimmed 
light . . . the missing limbs? I hurried forward across a low knoll for a 
clearer view, just as Torrence bent down to make some final adjustments. 

“Jack, I’m here! Be careful ...” I could hardly hear my own cries in 
the peaking storm. 

“Keep away!” Torrence must have heard me, for he yelled back, glanc- 
ing over his shoulder. “Alan, get out of here! I don’t need you ...” His 
voice dwindled to inaudibility as he turned back to the statue outspread 
before him. 

What I saw then can never be a certainty, because of the tremendous 
lightning bolt that struck the hillside at that moment, and its aftermath. 
The islanders believed my story the next morning, treating me with 
sympathy and a little awe when they found me wandering like a god- 
struck hermit; but I myself don’t know what to believe. I was knocked 
flat by the thunderbolt, temporarily blinded, my eyebrows scorched away 
by its heat; yet the same divine energy that burned out my vision may 
first have distorted it, or else momentarily heightened it . . . 

In any case, thg scene is permanently imprinted on my brain, a vivid, 
electrified tableau, the first image I see whenever 1 close my eyes and 
probably the last thing I will see in this life: Torrence kneeling at the 
ruined shrine, bending over the object of his obsession, his love ... is he 
really transformed into pale stone, or just frozen in shock? And the 
shapely, intact goddess beneath him, sculpted of holy fire . . . can she 
truly be reaching up to enfold him in a lithe, living embrace? 

The smallest details are the most vivid ones, just before the hillside 
comes thundering down to bury Jack Torrence and the object of his 
passion under thousands of tons of ancient stone: the long, snakelike 
tentacles of her arms, the twitching palps of her feet and the tendriled 
horror of her face, gaping in a tooth-rimmed snarl alien to humanity and 
immeasurably older than the gods of Greece. # 



TORSO 


181 





An exotic “Outpost of the Empire” is the setting for 
Robert Siiverberg’s latest tale of a richly^ 
divergent time-line. Mr. Silverberg 
delveslinto some of the background^ 
for this story in his aftenvord on p. 199 . ! 


AN 
OUTPOST 


OF THE 


Copyright i 1991 by Agberg. Ltd. 



by Robert 

Silverberg 


art: Bob Walters 




You know your enemy from the first moment you see him. I saw mine 
on a gleaming spring day almost a year ago, when I had gone down to 
the Grand Canal as I usually do in the morning to enjoy the breezes. A 
flotilla of ornate Roman barges was moving along the water, shouldering 
our gondolas aside as though they were so much flotsam. In the prow of 
the foremost barge stood a sturdy dark-bearded young imperial procon- 
sul, grinning in the morning sunshine, looking for all the world like 
some new Alexander taking possession of his most recently conquered 
domain. 

I was watching from the steps of the little Temple of Apollo, just by 
the Rialto. The proconsul’s barge bore three poles from which the eagle- 
standard fluttered, and they were too tall to pass. The drawbridge, for 
some reason, was slow to open. As he looked impatiently around his gaze 
fell on me and his bright, insolent eyes met mine. They rested there a 
moment, comfortably, presumptuously. Then he winked and waved, and 
cupped his hand to his lips and called something to me that I could not 
make out. 

“What?” I said automatically, speaking in Greek. 

“Falco! Quintus Pompeius Falco!” 

Then the bridge opened and his barge passed through and was gone, 
swiftly heading down the canal. His destination, I soon would learn, was 
the Palace of the Doges on the great plaza, where he was going to take 
up residence in the house where the princes of Venetia formerly had 
dwelled. 

I glanced at Sophia, my waiting-maid. “Did you hear him?” I asked. 
“What was that he said?” 

“His name, lady. He is Pompeius Falco, our new master.” 

“Ah. Of course. Our new master.” 

How I hated him in that first moment! This hairy-faced garlic-eating 
Italian boy, making his swaggering way into our serene and lovely city 
to be our overlord — how could I not detest him? Some crude soldier from 
Neapolis or Calabria, jumped up out of sweaty obscurity to become pro- 
consul of Venetia as a reward, no doubt, for his bloodthirstiness on the 
battlefield, who now would fill our ears with his grating Latin crudities 
and desecrate the elegance of our banquets with his coarse Roman 
ways — I loathed him on sight. I felt soiled by the cool, casual glance he 
had bestowed on me in that moment before his barge passed under the 
drawbridge. Quintus Pompeius Falco, indeed! What could that ugly name 
possibly mean to me? I, a highborn woman of Venetia, Byzantine to the 
core, who could trace her ancestry to the princes of Constantinopolis, 
who had mingled since childhood with the great ones of the Greek world? 

It was no surprise that the Romans were here. For months I had felt 
the Empire seeping into our city the way the bitter ocean tides slip past 


184 


ROBERT SILVERBERG 


our barrier islands into our quiet lagoon. That is the way it is in Venetia: 
we shelter ourselves as best we can from the sea\ but in time of storm it 
prevails over everything and comes surging in upon us, engulfing us and 
flooding us. There is no sea in all the world more powerful than the 
Empire of Roma; and now it was about to sweep over us at last. 

We were a defeated race, after all. Five, eight, ten years had passed, 
already, since the Basileus Leo VII and the Emperor Flavius Romulus 
had signed the Treaty of Ravenna by which the Eastern and Western 
Empires were reunited under Roman rule and all was as it had been so 
many centuries ago in the time of the earliest Caesars. The great Greek 
moment was over. We had had our time of glory, but the Romans had 
prevailed in the end. Piece by piece the whole independent Byzantine 
world had returned to Roman control, and it was our turn now, Venetia, 
the westernmost outpost of the fallen realm. Roman barges sailed our 
canals. A Roman proconsul had come here to live in the Palace of the 
Doges. Roman soldiers strutted in our streets. Fifty years of bloody civil 
war, two hundred years of Greek ascendancy after that, and now it was 
all nothing but history. We did not even have an emperor of our own. 
For a thousand years, since the time of Constantine, we of the East had 
had that. But now we would have to bend our knees to the Caesars as 
we did in ancient times. Do you wonder that I hated Caesar’s man on 
sight, as he proudly made his entry into our conquered but not humbled 
city? 

Scarcely anything changed at first. They did not reconsecrate the Tem- 
ple of Zeus as a temple of Jupiter. Our fine Byzantine coins, our solidi and 
miliaresia, continued to circulate, though I suppose there were Roman 
sestertii and denarii among them now. We spoke the language we had 
always spoken. Official documents now bore the Roman date — it was 
their year 2206 — instead of using the Greek numbering, which ran from 
the founding of Constantinopolis. But who among us paid attention to 
official documents? For us it was still the year 1123. 

We saw Roman officials occasionally in the plaza, or in the shops of 
the Rialto, or journeying in gondolas of state along the main canals, but 
they were few in number and they seemed to take care not to intrude on 
our lives. The great men of the city, the members of the old aristocracy 
from whose ranks the Doges once had been drawn, went about in proper 
pomp and majesty as usual. There was no Doge, of course, but there had 
been none for a long time. 

My own existence was as it had been. As the daughter of Alexios 
Phokas and the widow of Heraclios Cantacuzenos I had wealth and privi- 
lege. My palace on the Grand Canal was a center for the high-born and 
cultured. My estate to the east in warm and golden Istria yielded a rich 


AN OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 


185 


bounty of figs, olives, oats, and wheat, and afforded me a place of diver- 
sion when I wearied of the watery charms of Venetia. For much as I love 
Venetia I find the city’s dank winters and sweltering miasmic summers 
very much of a burden on my spirit, and must escape from it when those 
times come. 

I had my lovers and my suitors, who were not necessarily the same 
men. It was generally assumed that I would marry again: I was still only 
thirty, childless and wealthy and widely hailed for my beauty, and of 
high family with close connection to the Byzantine imperial dynasty. 
But although my mourning time was over, I was in no hurry for a new 
husband. I had been too young when I was married to Heraclios, and had 
had insufficient experience of the world. The accident that had robbed 
me of my lord so early had given me the opportunity to make up for my 
past innocence, and so I had done. Like Penelope, I surrounded myself 
with suitors who would gladly have taken a daughter of the Phokases to 
wife, widow that she might be. But while these ambitious grandees, most 
of them ten years older than I or more, buzzed about me bringing their 
gifts and murmuring their promises, I amused myself with a succession 
of less distinguished gentlemen of greater vigor — gondoliers, grooms, 
musicians, a soldier or two — to the great enhancement of my knowledge 
of life. 

I suppose it was inevitable that I would encounter the Roman proconsul 
sooner or later. Venetia is a small city; and it was incumbent upon him 
to ingratiate himself with the local aristocracy. For our part we were 
obliged to be civil with him: among the Romans all benefits flow down- 
ward from the top, and he was the Emperor’s man in Venetia. When 
lands, military rank, lucrative municipal offices became available, it was 
Quintus Pompeius Falco who would distribute them, and he could, if he 
chose, ignore the formerly mighty of the city and raise new men to favor. 
So it behooved those who had been powerful under the fallen government 
to court him if they hoped to maintain their high positions. Falco had 
his suitors just as I had mine. On feast days he was seen at the Temple 
of Zeus, surrounded by Venetian lords who fawned on him as though he 
were Zeus himself come to visit. He had the place of honor at many 
banquets; he was invited to join in the hunt at the estates of the great 
noblemen; often, as the barges of the wealthy traveled down our canals, 
there was Pompeius Falco among them on deck, laughing and sipping 
wine and accepting the flattery of his hosts. 

As I say, I could not help but encounter him eventually. From time to 
time I saw him eyeing me from afar at some grand occasion of state; but 
I never gave him the satisfaction of returning his glance. And then came 
an evening when I could no longer avoid direct contact with him. 

It was a banquet at the villa of my father’s younger brother, Demetrios. 


186 


ROBERT SILVERBERG 


With my father dead, Demetrios was the head of our family, and his 
invitation had the power of a command. What I did not know was that 
Demetrios, for all his sacks of gold and his many estates in the hinter- 
land, was angling for a political post in the new Roman administration. 
He wished to become Master of the Cavalry, not a military position at 
all, for what sort of cavalry could seaborne Venetia have, but simply a 
sinecure that would entitle him to a share of the city’s customs revenues. 
Therefore he was cultivating the friendship of Pompeius Falco, and had 
invited him to the banquet. And, to my horror, he had seated me at the 
proconsul’s right hand at the dinner table. Was my uncle willing to play 
the pimp for the sake of gaining a few extra ducats a year? So it would 
appear. I was ablaze with fury. But there was nothing I could do now 
except go through with my part. I had no wish to cause a scandal in my 
uncle’s house. 

Falco said to me, “We are companions this evening, it would seem. 
May I escort you to your seat. Lady Eudoxia?” 

He spoke in Greek, and accurate Greek at that, though there was a 
thick-tongued barbarian undercurrent to his speech. I took his arm. He 
was taller than I had expected, and very broad through the shoulders. 
His eyes were alert and penetrating and his smile was a quick, forceful 
one. From a distance he had seemed quite boyish but I saw now that he 
was older than I had thought, at least thirty-five, perhaps even more. I 
detested him for his easy, confident manner, for his proprietorial air, for 
his command of our language. I even detested him for his beard, thick 
and black: beards had not been in fashion in the Greek world for several 
generations now. His was a short, dense fringe, a soldier’s beard, that 
gave him the look of an emperor on one of the old Roman coins. Very 
likely that was its purpose. 

Platters of grilled fish came, and cool wine to go with it. “I love your 
Venetian wine,” he said. “So much more delicate than the heavy stuff of 
the south. Shall I pour, lady?” 

There were servants standing around to do the pouring. But the pro- 
consul of Venetia poured my wine for me, and everyone in the room 
noticed it. 

I was the dutiful niece. I made amiable conversation, as though Pom- 
peius Falco were a mere guest and not the agent of our conqueror; I 
pretended that I had utterly accepted the fall of Byzantium and the 
presence of Roman functionaries among us. Where was he from? Tarraco, 
he said. That was a city far in the west, he explained: in Hispania. The 
Emperor Flavius Romulus was from Tarraco also. Ah, and was he related 
to the Emperor, then? No, said Falco, not at all. But he was a close friend 
of the Emperor’s youngest son, Marcus Quintillius. They had fought side 
by side in the Cappadocian campaign. 


AN OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 


187 


“And are you pleased to have been posted to Venetia?” I asked him, as 
the wine came around again. 

“Oh, yes, yes, lady, very much. What a beautiful little city! So unusual: 
all these canals, all these bridges. And how civilized it is here, after the 
frenzy and clamor of Rome.” 

“Indeed, we are quite civilized,” I said. 

But I was boiling within, for I knew what he really meant, which was. 
How quaint your Venetia is, how sweet, a precious little bauble of a place. 
And how clever it was of you to build your pretty little town in the sea as 
you did, so that all the streets are canals and one must get about by 
gondola instead of by carriage. And what a relief it is for me to spend 
some time in a placid provincial backwater like this, sipping good wine 
with handsome ladies while all the local lordlings scurry around me 
desperately trying to curry my favor, instead of my having to make my 
way in the cutthroat jungle that surrounds the imperial court in Rome. 
And as he went on praising the beauties of the city I came to hate him 
more and more. It is one thing to be conquered, and quite another to be 
patronized. 

I knew he intended to seduce me. One didn’t need the wisdom of Min- 
erva to see that. But I resolved then and there to seduce him first: to 
seize such little control as I could over this Roman, to humble him and 
thus to defeat him. Falco was an attractive enough animal, of course. On 
a sheer animal level there surely was pleasure to be had from him. And 
also the other pleasure of the conqueror conquered, the pursuer made 
the pursued: yes. I was eager for that. I was no longer the innocent of 
seventeen who had been given as bride to the radiant Heraclios Cantacu- 
zenos. I had wiles, now. I was a woman, not a child. 

I shifted the conversation to the arts, to literature, to philosophy, to 
histoiy. I wanted to show him up as the barbarian he was; but he turned 
out to be unexpectedly well educated, and when I asked if he had been 
to the theater to see the current play, which was the Nausicaa of Sopho- 
cles, he said that he had, but that his favorite play of Sophocles was the 
Philoctetes, because it so well defined the conflict between honor and 
patriotism. “And yet. Lady Eudoxia, I can see why you are partial to the 
Nausicaa, for surely that kind princess must be a woman close to your 
heart.” More flattery, and I loathed him for it; but in truth I had wept 
at the theater when Nausicaa and Odysseus had loved and parted, and 
perhaps I did see something of her in myself, or something of myself in 
her. 

At the evening’s end he asked me to take the midday meal with him 
at his palace two days hence. I was prepared for that, and coolly begged 
a prior engagement. He proposed dinner, then, the first of the week 


188 


ROBERT SILVERBERG 


following. Again I invented a reason for declining. He smiled. He under- 
stood the nature of the game we had entered into. 

“Perhaps another time, then,” he said, and gracefully left me for my 
uncle’s company. 

I meant to see him again, of course, but at a time and a place of my 
own choosing. And soon I found the occasion. When traveling troupes of 
musicians reach Venetia, they find a ready welcome at my home. A 
concert was to be held; I invited the proconsul. He came, accompanied 
by a stolid Roman retinue. I gave him the place of honor, naturally. Falco 
lingered after the performance to praise the quality of the flutes and the 
poignance of the singer; but he said nothing further about my joining 
him for dinner. Good: he had abdicated in my favor. From this point on 
I would define the nature of the chase. I offered him no further invitations 
either, but allowed him a brief tour of the downstairs rooms of my palace 
before he left, and he admired the paintings, the sculptures, the cabinet 
of antiquities, all the fine things that I had inherited from my father and 
my grandfather. 

The next day a Roman soldier arrived with a gift for me from the 
proconsul: a little statuette in highly polished black stone, showing a 
woman with the head of a cat. The note from Falco that accompanied it 
said that he had obtained it while serving in the province of Aiguptos 
some years ago: it was an image of one of the Aiguptian gods, which he 
had purchased at a temple in Memphis, and he thought I might find 
some beauty in it. Indeed it was beautiful, after a fashion, but also it 
was frightening and strange. In that way it was very much like Quintus 
Pompeius Falco, I found myself thinking, to my own great surprise. I put 
the statuette on a shelf in my cabinet — there was nothing like it there; 
I had never seen anything of its kind — and I resolved to ask Falco to tell 
me something of Aiguptos the next time I saw him, of its pyramids, its 
bizarre gods, its torrid sandy wastes. 

I sent him a brief note of thanks. Then I waited seven days, and invited 
him to join me for a holiday at my Istrian estate the following week. 

Unfortunately, he replied, that week the cousin of Caesar would be 
passing through Venetia and would have to be entertained. Could he 
visit my estate another time? 

The rejection caught me off guard. He was a better player of the game 
than I had suspected; I broke into hot tears of rage. But I had enough 
sense not to answer immediately. After three days I wrote again, telling 
him that I regretted being unable to offer him an alternate date at 
present, but perhaps I would find myself free to entertain him later in 
the season. It was a risky ploy: certainly it jeopardized my uncle’s ambi- 
tions. But Falco seemingly took no offense. When our gondolas passed 
on the canal two days later, he bowed grandly to me and smiled. 


AN OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 


189 


I waited what seemed to be the right span of time, and invited him 
again; and this time he accepted. A ten-man bodyguard came with him: 
did he think I meant to murder him? But of course the Empire must 
proclaim its power at every opportunity. I had been warned he would 
bring an entourage, and I was prepared for it, lodging his soldiers in 
distant outbuildings and sending for girls of the village to amuse and 
distract them. Falco himself I installed in the guest suite of my own 
dwelling. 

He had another gift for me: a necklace made from beads of some 
strange green stone, carved in curious patterns, with a blood-red wedge 
of stone at its center. 

“How lovely,” I said, though I thought it frightening and harsh. 

“It comes from the land of Mexico,” he told me. “Which is a great 
kingdom in Nova Roma, far across the sea. They worship mysterious 
gods there. Their festivals are held atop a great pyramid, where priests 
cut out the hearts of sacrificial victims until rivers of blood run in the 
streets of the city.” 

“And you have been there?” 

“Oh, yes, yes. Six years past. Mexico and another land called Peru. I 
was in the service of Caesar’s ambassador to the kingdoms of Nova Roma 
then.” 

It stunned me to think that this man had been to Nova Roma. Those 
two great continents far across the Western Sea — they seemed as remote 
as the face of the moon to me. But of course in this great time of the 
Empire under Flavius Romulus the Romans have carried their banners 
to the most remote parts of the world. 

I stroked the stone beads — the green stone was smooth as silk, and 
seemed to burn with an inner fire — and put the necklace on. 

“Aiguptos — Nova Roma — ” I shook my head. “And have you been ev- 
erywhere, then?” 

“Yes, very nearly so,” he said, laughing. “The men who serve Flavius 
Caesar grow accustomed to long journeys. My brother has been to Khitai 
and the islands of Cipangu. My uncle went far south in Africa, beyond 
Aiguptos, to the lands where the hairy men dwell. It is a golden age, 
lady. The Empire reaches out boldly to every corner of the world.” Then 
he smiled and leaned close and said, “And you, lady? Have you traveled 
very much?” 

“I have seen Constantinopolis,” I said. 

“Ah. The great capital, yes. I stopped there on my way to Aiguptos. 
The races in the Hippodrome — nothing like it, even in Urbs Roma itself! 
I saw the royal palace: from the outside, of course. They say it has walls 
of gold. I think not even Caesar’s house can equal it.” 

“I was in it, once, when I was a child. When the Basileus still ruled, I 


190 


ROBERT SILVERBERG 


mean. I saw the golden halls. I saw the lions of gold that sit beside the 
throne and roar and wave their tails, and the jewelled birds on the gold 
and silver trees in the throne-chamber, who open their beaks and sing. 
The Basileus gave me a ring. My father was his distant relative, you 
know. I am of the Phokas family. Later I married a Cantacuzenos: my 
husband too had royal connections.” 

“Ah,” he said, as though greatly impressed, as though the names of 
the Byzantine aristocracy might possibly mean something to him. 

But in fact I knew he was still condescending to me. A dethroned 
emperor is no emperor at all; a fallen aristocracy merits little awe. 

And what did it matter to him that I had been once to Constantino- 
polis — he who had been there too, in passing, on his way to fabulous 
Aiguptos? The one great journey I had taken in my life was a mere stop- 
over to him. His cosmopolitanism humbled me, as I suppose it was meant 
to do. He had been to other continents: other worlds, really. Aiguptos! 
Nova Roma! He could find things to praise about our capital, yes, but it 
was clear from his effusive tone that he really regarded it as inferior to 
the city of Rome, and inferior perhaps to the cities of Mexico and Peru 
as well, and other exotic places that he had visited in Caesar’s name. 
The breadth and scope of his travels dazzled me. Here we Greeks were, 
penned up in our ever-shrinking realm that now had collapsed utterly. 
Here was I, daughter of one minor city on the periphery of that fallen 
realm, pathetically proud of my one visit long ago to our formerly mighty 
capital. But he was a Roman; all the world was open to him. If mighty 
Constantinopolis of the golden walls was just one more city to him, what 
was our little Venetia? What was I? 

I hated him more violently than ever. I wished I had never invited 
him. 

But he was my guest. I had had a wondrous banquet prepared, with 
the finest of wines, and delicacies that even a far-traveled Roman might 
not have met with before. He was obviously pleased. He drank and drank 
and drank, growing flushed though never losing control, and we talked 
far into the night. 

I must confess that he amazed me with the scope and range of his 
mind. 

He was no mere barbarian. He had had a Greek tutor, as all Romans 
of good family had had for over a thousand years. A wise old Athenian 
named Eukleides, he was, who had filled the young Falco’s head with 
poetry and drama and philosophy, and drilled him in the most obscure 
nuances of our language, and taught him the abstract sciences, at which 
we Greeks have always excelled. And so this proconsul was at home not 
just in Roman things like science and engineering and the art of warfare, 
but also in Plato and Aristoteles, in the playwrights and poets, in the 


AN OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 


191 


history of my race back to Agamemnon’s time — indeed, he was able to 
discourse on all manner of things that I myself knew more by name than 
by their inner meaning. 

He talked until I had had all the talking I could bear, and then some. 
And at last — it was the middle hour of the night, and the owls were 
crying in the darkness — I took him by the hand and led him to my bed, 
if only to silence that flow of words that came from him like the torrents 
of Aiguptos’s Nile itself. 

He lit a taper in the bedchamber. Our clothes dropped away as though 
they had turned to mist. 

He reached for me and drew me down. 

I had never been loved by a Roman before. In the last moment before 
he embraced me I had a sudden fresh burst of fiery contempt for him and 
all his kind, for I was certain that his innate brutality now would come 
to the fore, that all his philosophic eloquence had been but a pose and 
now he would take possession of me the way Romans for fifteen hundred 
years had taken possession of everything in their path. He would subju- 
gate me; he would colonize me. He would be coarse and violent and 
clumsy, but he would have his way, as Romans always did, and afterward 
he would rise and leave without a word. 

I was wrong, as I had been wrong about everything else concerning 
this man. 

His touch indeed was Roman, not Greek. That is to say, instead of 
insinuating himself into me in some devious, cunning, left-handed man- 
ner, he was straightforward and direct. But not clumsy, not at all. He 
knew what to do, and he set about doing it; and where there were things 
he had to learn, as any man must when it is his first time with a new 
woman, he knew what they were and he knew how to learn them. I 
understood now what was meant when women said that Greek men 
make love like poets and Romans like engineers. What I had never 
realized until that moment was that engineers have skills that many 
poets never have, and that an engineer could be capable of writing fine 
poetry, but would you not think twice about riding across a bridge that 
had been designed or built by a poet? 

We lay together until dawn, laughing and talking when we were not 
embracing. And then, having had no sleep, we rose in our nakedness and 
walked through the halls to the bath-chamber, and in great merriment 
washed ourselves, and, still naked, walked out into the sweet pink dawn. 
Side by side we stood, saying nothing, watching the sun come up out of 
Byzantium and begin its day’s journey onward toward Roma, toward the 
lands along the Western Sea, toward Nova Roma, toward far-off Khitai. 


We dressed and had a breakfast of wine and cheese and figs, and I 

192 ROBERT SILVERBERG 


called for horses and took him on a tour of the estate. I showed him the 
olive groves, the fields of wheat, the mill and its stream, the fig-trees 
laden with fruit. The day was warm and beautiful; the birds sang, the 
sky was clear. 

Later, as we took our midday meal on the patio overlooking the garden, 
he said, ‘This is a marvelous place. I hope that when I’m old I can retire 
to a country estate like this.” 

“Surely there must be one in your family,” I said. 

“Several. But not, I think, as peaceful as this. We Romans have forgot- 
ten how to live peacefully.” 

“Whereas we, since we are a declining race, can allow ourselves the 
luxury of a little tranquility?” 

He looked at me strangely. “You see yourselves as a declining race?” 

“Don’t be disingenuous, Quintus Pompeius. There’s no need to flatter 
me now. Of course we are.” 

“Because you’re no longer an imperial power?” 

“Of course. Once ambassadors from places like Nova Roma and Bagh- 
dad and Memphis and Khitai came to us. Not here to Venetia, I mean, 
but to Constantinopolis. Now the ambassadors go only to Roma; what 
the Greek cities get is tourists. And Roman proconsuls.” 

“How strange your view of the world is, Eudoxia.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“You equate the loss of the Imperium with being in decline.” 

“Wouldn’t you?” 

“If it happened to Roma, yes. But Byzantium isn’t Roma.” He was 
staring at me very seriously now. “The Eastern Empire was a folly, a 
distraction, a great mistake that somehow endured a thousand years. It 
should never have been. The burden of ruling the world was given to 
Roma: we accept it as our duty. There was never any need for an Eastern 
Empire in the first place.” 

“It was all some terrible error of Constantine’s, you say?” 

“Exactly. It was a bad time for Roma, then. Even empires have their 
fluctuations; even ours. We had overextended ourselves, and everything 
was shaking. Constantine had political problems at home, and too many 
troublesome sons. He thought the Empire was unwieldy and impossible 
to hold together, so he built the eastern capital and let the two halves 
drift apart. The system worked for a while — no, I admit it, for hundreds 
of years — but as the East lost sight of the fact that its political system 
had been set up by Romans and began to remember that it was really 
Greek, its doom became inevitable. A Greek Imperium is an anomaly 
that can’t sustain itself in the modem world. It couldn’t even sustain 
itself very long in the ancient world. The phrase is a contradiction in 
terms, a Greek Imperium. Agamemnon had no Imperium: he was only 


AN OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 


193 


a tribal chief, who could barely make his power felt ten miles from 
Mycenae. And how long did the Athenian Empire last? How long did 
Alexander’s kingdom hold together, once Alexander had died? No, no, 
no, Eudoxia, the Greeks are a marvelous people, the whole world is 
in their debt for any number of great achievements, but building and 
sustaining governments on a large scale isn’t one of their skills. And 
never has been.” 

“You think so?” I said, with glee in my voice. “Then why was it that 
we were able to defeat you in the Civil War? It was Caesar Maximilianus 
who surrendered to the Basileus Andronicus, is that not so. West yielding 
to East, and not the other way around. For two hundred years we of the 
East were supreme in the world, may I remind you.” 

Falco shrugged. ‘The gods were teaching Roma a lesson, that’s all. It 
was another fluctuation. We were being punished for having allowed the 
Empire to be divided in the first place. We needed to be humbled for a 
little while, so we’d never make the same mistake again. So you Greeks 
beat us very soundly in Maximilianus’s time, and you had a couple of 
hundred years of being, as you say, supreme, while we discovered what 
it felt like to be a second-rate power. But it was an impossible situation. 
The gods intend Roma to rule the world. There’s simply no doubt of that. 
It was true in the time of Carthage and it’s true today. And so the Greek 
Empire fell apart without even the need for a second Civil War. And so 
here we are. A Roman procurator sits in the royal palace at Constantino- 
polis. And a Roman proconsul in Venetia. Although at the moment he 
happens to be at the country estate of a lovely Venetian lady.” 

“You’re serious?” I said. “You really believe that you are a chosen 
people? That Roma holds the Imperium by the will of the gods?” 

“Absolutely.” 

He was altogether sincere. 

“The Pax Romana is Zeus’s gift to humanity? Jupiter’s gift, I should 
say.” 

“Yes,” he said. “But for us, the world would fall into chaos. Gods, 
woman, do you think we want to spend our lives being administrators 
and bureaucrats? Don’t you think I’d prefer to retire to some estate like 
this and spend my days hunting and fishing and farming? But we are 
the race that understands how to rule. And therefore we have the obliga- 
tion to rule. Oh, Eudoxia, Eudoxia, you think we’re simple brutal beasts 
who go around conquering everybody for the sheer joy of conquest, and 
you don’t realize that this is our task, our burden, our job.” 

“I will weep for you, then.” 

He smiled. “Am I a simple brutal beast?” 

“Of course you are. All Romans are.” 

* ♦ * 


194 


ROBERT SILVERBERG 


He stayed with me for five days. I think we slept perhaps ten hours in 
all that time. Then he begged leave of me, saying that it was necessary 
that he return to his tasks in Venetia, and he went away. 

I remained behind, with plenty to think about. 

I could, not, of course, accept his thesis that Greeks were incapable of 
governing anyone and that Roma had some divine mandate to run the 
world. The Eastern Empire had spread over great segments of the known 
world in its first few hundred years — Syria, Arabia, Aiguptos, much of 
eastern Europa even as far as Venetia, which is virtually in Roma’s back 
yard — and we had thrived and prospered mightily, as the wealth of the 
great Byzantine cities still attests. And in later years, when the Romans 
had begun to find that their Greek cousins were growing uncomfortably 
powerful and had attempted to reassert the supremacy of the West, we 
had fought a fifty-year Civil War and had beaten them quite handily. 
Which had led to two centuries of Byzantine hegemony, hard times for 
the West while Byzantine merchant-ships traveled to the rich cities of 
Asia and Africa. I suppose ultimately we had overreached ourselves, as 
all empires eventually do, or perhaps we simply went soft with too much 
prosperity, and so the Romans awakened out of their sleep of centuries 
and shook our empire apart. Maybe they are the great exception; maybe 
their Imperium really will go on and on and on through the ages to come, 
as it has done for the last fifteen hundred years, with only minor periods 
of what Falco would call “fluctuations” to disrupt its unbroken span 
of command. And therefore our territories have been reduced by the 
inexorable force of the imperial destiny of Roma to the status of Roman 
provinces again, as they were in the time of Augustus Caesar. But we 
had had our time of grandeur. We had ruled the world just as well as 
the Romans ever did. 

Or so I told myself But even as I thought it, I knew it wasn’t so. 

We Greeks could understand grandeur, yes. We understand splendor 
and imperial pomp. But the Romans know how to do the day-by-day work 
of governing. Maybe Falco was right after all: maybe our pitiful few 
centuries of Imperium, interrupting the long Roman sway, had been just 
an anomaly of history. For now the Eastern Empire was only a memory 
and the Pax Romana was once again in force across thousands of miles, 
and from his hilltop in Roma the great Caesar Flavius Romulus presided 
over a realm such as the world had never before known, Romans in 
remotest Asia, Romans in India, Roman vessels traveling even to the 
astonishing new continents of the far western hemisphere, strange new 
inventions coming forth — printed books, weapons that hurl heavy mis- 
siles great distances, all sorts of miracles — and we Greeks are reduced 
to contemplation of past glories as we sit in our conquered cities sipping 
our wine and reading Homer and Sophocles. For the first time in my 


AN OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 


195 


life I saw my people as a minor race, elegant, charming, cultivated, 
unimportant. 

How I had despised my handsome proconsul! And how he had revenged 
himself on me for that! 

I stayed in Istria two more days and then I returned to the city. There 
was a gift waiting for me from Falco: a sleek piece of carved ivory that 
showed a house of strange design and a woman with delicate features 
sitting pensively beside a lake under a tree with weeping boughs. The 
note from him that accompanied it said that it was from Khitai, that he 
had obtained it in the land of Bactria, on India’s borders. He had not told 
me that he had been to Bactria too. The thought of his travels on behalf 
of Roma dizzied me: so many voyages, such strenuous journeys. And I 
imagined him gathering little treasures such as these wherever he went, 
and carrying them about with him to bestow on his ladies in other lands. 
That thought so angered me that I pearly hurled the ivory piece away. 
But I reconsidered, and put it in my cabinet of curios next to the stone 
goddess from Aiguptos. 

It was his turn now to invite me to dine with him at the palace of the 
Doges, and — I assumed — to spend the night in the bed where the Doges 
and their consorts once had slept. But I waited a week and then a second 
week, and the invitation did not come. That seemed out of keeping with 
my new awareness of him as a man of great attainment. But perhaps I 
had overestimated him. He was, after all, a Roman. He had had what he 
wanted from me; now he was on to other adventures, other conquests. 

I was wrong about that, too. 

When my impatience had darkened once again into anger toward him 
and my fury over having let him use me this way had obliterated all the 
regard for him that had developed in me during his visit to my estate, I 
went to my uncle Demetrios and said, “Have you seen this Roman procon- 
sul of ours lately? Has he been ill, do you think?” 

“Why, is he of any concern to you, Eudoxia?” 

I glowered at him. Having pushed me into Falco’s arms to serve his 
own purposes, Demetrios had no right to mock me now. Sharply I said, 
“He owes me the courtesy of an invitation to the palace, uncle. Not 
that I would accept it — not now. But he should know that he has given 
offense.” 

“And I am supposed to tell him that?” ' 

“Tell him nothing. Nothing!” 

Demetrios gave me a knowing smirk. But I was sure he would keep 
silent. There was nothing for him to gain in humiliating me in the eyes 
of Pompeius Falco. 

The days went by. And then at last came a note from Falco, in elegant 
Greek script as all his notes were, asking if he might call on me. My 


196 


ROBERT SILVERBERG 


impulse was to refuse. But one did not refuse such requests from a procon- 
sul. And in any case I realized that I wanted to see him again. I wanted 
very much to see him again. 

“I hope you will forgive me, lady, for my inattentiveness,” he said. 
“But I have had a great deal on my mind in these recent weeks.” 

“I’m certain that you have,” I said drily. 

Color came to his face. “You have every right to be angry with me, 
Eudoxia. But this has been a time of unusual circumstances. There have 
been great upheavals in Roma, do you know? The Emperor has reshuffled 
his Cabinet. Important men have fallen; others have risen suddenly to 
glory.” 

“And how has this concerned you?” I asked him. “Are you one of those 
who has fallen, or have you risen to glory? Or should I not ask you any 
of this?” 

“One of those who has risen,” he said, “is Gains Julius Flavillus.” 

The name meant nothing to me. 

“Gains Julius Flavillus, lady, had held the post of Third Flamen. Now 
he is First Tribune. Which is a considerable elevation, as you may know. 
It happens that Gains Flavillus is a man of Tarraco, like the Emperor, 
like myself. He is my father’s cousin. He has been my patron throughout 
my career. And so — messengers have been going back and forth between 
Venetia and Roma for all these weeks — I too have been elevated, it 
seems, by special favor of the new Tribune.” 

“Elevated,” I said hollowly. 

“Indeed. I have been transferred to Constantinopolis, where I am to be 
the new procurator. It is the highest administrative post in the former 
Eastern Empire.” His eyes were glittering with self-satisfaction. But 
then his expression changed. A kind of sadness came into them, a kind 
of tenderness. “Lady, you must believe me when I tell you that I greeted 
the news with a mixture of feelings, not all of them pleasant ones. It is 
a great honor for me. And yet I would not have left Venetia so quickly 
of my own choosing. We have barely begun to know each other; and now, 
to my immense regret, we must part.” 

He took my hands in his. He seemed almost to be at the edge of tears. 
His sincerity seemed real; or else he was a better actor than I suspected. 

A kind of numbness spread through me. 

“When do you leave?” I asked. 

“In three days, lady.” 

“Ah. Three days.” 

“Three very busy days.” 

You could always take me with you to Constantinopolis, I found myself 
thinking. There would surely be room for me somewhere in the vast 
palace of the former Basileus where you now will make your home. 


AN OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 


197 


But of course that could never be. A Roman rising as swiftly as he 
was would never want to encumber himself with a Byzantine wife. A 
Byzantine mistress, perhaps. But mistresses of any sort were no longer 
what he needed. Now was the time for him to make an auspicious mar- 
riage and undertake the next stage of his climb. The procurator’s seat at 
Constantinopolis would detain him little longer than his proconsulship 
in Venetia had; his path would lead him before very long back to Roma. 
He would be a flamen, a tribune, perhaps Pontifex Maximus. If he played 
his cards right he might some day be Emperor. I might be summoned 
then to Roma to relive old times, perhaps. But I would not see him again 
before then. 

“May I stay this night with you?” he asked, with a strange new note 
of uncertainty in his voice, as though expecting that I might refuse. 

But of course I did not refuse. That would have been crass and petty; 
and in any case I wanted him. I knew that this was the last chance. 

It was a night of wine and poetry, of tears and laughter, of ecstasy and 
exhaustion. 

And then he was gone, leaving me mired in my petty little provincial 
life while he went on to Constantinopolis and glory. A grand procession 
of gondolas followed him down the canal as he made his way to the sea. 
A new Roman proconsul, so they say, will be arriving in Venetia any 
day now. 

From Falco I had one parting gift: the plays of Aeschylus, in a finely 
bound volume that had been produced on the printing press, which is 
one of those new inventions of which they are so proud in Roma. My first 
reaction was one of scorn, that he should give me this machine-made 
thing instead of a manuscript indited by hand. And then, as I had done 
so many times in the days of my involvement with this difficult man, I 
was forced to reconsider, to admire what at first sight I had seen as cheap 
and vulgar. The book was beautiful, in its way. More than that: it was 
a sign of a new age. To deny that new age, or turn my back on it, would 
be folly. 

And so I have learned at first hand of the power of Roma and of the 
insignificance of the formerly great. Our lovely Venetia was only a way- 
station for him. Constantinopolis of imperial grandeur will be the same. 
It was a powerful lesson: I have been thoroughly educated in the ways 
of Roma and the Romans, to my own great cost, for I see now as I never 
could have seen before that they are everything and we, polished and 
refined as we may be, are nothing at all. 

I had underestimated Quintus Pompeius Falco at every turn; I had 
underestimated his race the same way. As had we all, which is why they 


198 


ROBERT SILVERBERG 


once again rule the world, or most of it, and we smile and bow and hope 
for their favor. 

He has written to me several times. So I must have made a strong 
impression on him. He speaks fondly, if guardedly, of our times together. 
He says nothing, though, about hoping that I will pay a visit to Con- 
stantinopolis to see him. 

But perhaps I will, one of these days, nevertheless. Or perhaps not. It 
all depends on what the new proconsul is like.# 


AFTERWORD: 

OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 

One of the pleasures for the reader of the alternate-universe story -is 
detecting the point in history at which the universe of the story diverged 
from our world. It’s a little unsporting for the author to spell out the 
timeline differential in a foreword or afterword. But it’s also a little 
unsporting for the author to withhold the essential information entirely 
from the reader, and that’s what I’ve done here, since “An Outpost of the 
Empire” is one of a group of stories set in the same background that I’ve 
written over the last few years and it isn’t feasible to interpolate the 
necessary background information in every story. So; 

What happened — as detailed in the initial story of the group, “To the 
Promised Land”^ — is that the Hebrew exodus from Egypt under Moses 
miscarried, the Jews remained in bondage to Pharaoh and never reached 
Palestine, and as a result Christianity did not develop. Rome stayed 
pagan and was therefore able to renew itself during the period we call 
the Dark Ages, fend off the invasions of the barbarians, and sustain itself 
as a thriving worldwide empire on into modern times. The history of 
Rome in this alternate world remained essentially the same as it was in 
ours, minus only the presence of the Christian minority, throughout the 
early centuries of the Empire — from the time of Augustus to that of 
Constantine, say. And the division of the Empire into East and West 
under Constantine followed the lines of what took place in our own 
timeline. But, as “An Outpost of the Empire” demonstrates, things be- 
came somewhat different after that. . . . 

Robert Silverberg 


AN OUTPOST OF THE EMPIRE 


199 





PJ by Alexander Jablokov 

■ P^ art: Ron and Val Lakey Lindahn 

ADOPTION 



'The Adoption" shares the same future Boston milieu as Alexander 
Jablokov's earlier tale, “The Place of No Shadows” (November 
1990), and both Steve Popkes’s novella “The Egg" (January 1989) 
and D. Alexander Smith's short story, "Dying in Hull" (November 
1988). The authors plan to collect these stories into a future Boston 
mosaic novel. 


“Don’t you think this was a bit risky, Sussman?” asked Salton Abt, a 
pudgy man in a padded blue jacket finely patterned with silver. “Yev- 
geni’s gone too far this time, I’d say.” 

Garner Sussman, a barrel-chested man with the large nose and facial 
features of an Indian chief in an old movie, pulled at his lower lip and 
stared back. Salton Abt was one of Yevgeni Mudande’s main business 
competitors. It had been socially necessary to invite him to the adoption 
ceremony, but the bastard should have had the grace to claim he was 
busy. Damn it, it wasn’t Sussman’s job to talk to the idiot. “What do you 
mean?” 

Abt glanced over his shoulder, sensing the passage of a canape cart, 
and snagged several stuffed mushrooms. “Well, I mean, really.” He ges- 
tured Sussman to come closer, as if wanting to impart a monstrous secret. 
“Adopting a seaman as an ancestor. I think your employer’s losing his 
touch.” He swallowed the mushrooms. 

Privately, Sussman agreed with him. Ever-deepening water sucked at 
the foundations of the city, and decent people wanted to do all they could 
to forget it. Putting a sailor in an ancestor chamber was like proudly 
displaying a child-molesting uncle. “Not just a seaman. Captain Obadiah 
Steelyard was a whaler. One of the mainstays of our city’s wealth, in the 
old days.” 

Abt snorted, rejecting the distinction. “A water rat. A sloshfoot.” 

This was close to serious insult. Sussman frowned and gestured with 
his huge hands. “I think you’re forgetting what being a Bostonian means, 
Mr. Abt.” He hated playing diplomat. 

With a fine sense of his Alien Master’s reluctance to defend a position 
he himself felt to be untenable, Yevgeni Mudande appeared at Abt’s 
shoulder. He was a heavy and powerful man with black skin and bushy 
pepper-and-salt hair. “Salton!” He pressed a large plate of steaming sau- 
sages into his rival’s hands. “Fresh from the kitchen. Cumin and pepper, 
your favorite. I saved them for you.” 

Despite himself, Abt’s many-chinned face lit up. He licked his lips. 
Mudande smiled at him, all genial host. “Come on, I want to show you 
some things. My venerable ancestor was quite an expert at scrimshaw, 
did you know that?” 

“Scrimshaw?” Abt mumbled around a sausage. 

“Engraving on the teeth of whales. I have some of his best work. I’m 
sure you’ll be interested.” Abt, torn between hunger and dismay, allowed 
himself to be led off. 

Sussman looked around the party to make sure that there was no one 
else he needed to avoid. The house was full of a noisy crowd, for a Mu- 
dande invitation was something to be sought after, even for the adoption 
of a sailor. Five species of extraterrestrial were in attendance, so Suss- 


THE ADOPTION 


201 


man, whose specialty was managing inter-species encounters, was on 
full alert. 

A Tulgut stood by one wall like a multi-armed elephant. They were a 
calm race, easy to deal with, except that they tended to inadvertently 
step on and crush the furniture that was everywhere in the fussily over- 
decorated interiors of contemporary Boston. 

The Bishop 24, frighteningly, had put in an appearance. Mudande 
always invited him, and this time he had accepted. Mudande was pleased. 
High status came with having the only representative of the centaurs 
on Earth at an adoption party. Still, the protocol problems of handling a 
six-foot-high armored praying mantis with inhumanly fast reflexes who 
liked challenging other beings to sentience duels, loser to be eaten, were 
something Sussman would have preferred not to deal with. He had made 
sure that the Bishop had an immense amount of high-protein food to 
support his high metabolism. 

He could see the centaur, whose body moved like a whip cracking, 
almost too fast to see, behind a potted palm, discussing something with 
an elegantly dressed Bostonian. Centaurs could be quite personable 
when they cared to. They could also eat you, without ceasing to be person- 
able. The Bishop 24 had told Sussman that Earth humans were consid- 
ered “inedible for reason of insanity.” This meant that his threats to eat 
people were jokes. Sussman didn’t like comedians. 

Three Phneri, who resembled golden-haired sea otters, matted and 
bedraggled as if they had been poorly packed for shipping, examined an 
elaborate gadget that lay shattered on the marble floor at the base of a 
pedestal. They fluted and whistled to each other. Sussman breathed a 
sigh of relief. At least that had been taken care of 

“Garner,” Tara Mudande’s cold voice said. “How could you have let 
that happen? I told you to be careful with it. Now look at them. The 
present they brought us is broken. How can I face them?” 

Sussman tried for a diplomatic expression and achieved something 
that looked like indigestion. “How many times do I have to explain — ah, 
never mind. Besides, Mastic did it. You saw it yourself. He grabbed it 
and knocked it over onto the floor.” 

“I know it’s your fault. Gamer. It has to be.” She glared at him with 
her green eyes and ran a finger through the elaborate coif of her red 
hair. “I don’t care what you say about their racial ethic requiring the 
destruction of art works. It’s still not polite. I didn’t even have time to 
clean it up.” 

Mastic, a large orange tom, sat on an overstuffed armchair, placidly 
chewing on the catnip mouse that Sussman had managed to shove inside 
the Phneri gift just before the party started. If they had arrived and 
found their gift preserved, like something dead, God only knows what 


202 


ALEXANDER JABLOKOV 


would have happened. Mudande & Associates had important contracts 
with the Phneri that could have been imperiled by an act of such un- 
thinking rudeness. But try to explain that to Tara Mudande. She knew 
what was polite and what wasn’t. 

Besides, she was still enraged that her husband had chosen a sailor as 
an ancestor. Mudande might not care, but it involved a lowering of status 
for her. She was not even mollified when the Phneri gathered around 
her, congratulating her on the clever way she had destroyed their gift. 

As she tried to make small talk with them, Sussman escaped. Mastic 
lay on the sofa, eyes half shut, completely stoned. Sussman snagged the 
catnip mouse as the last piece of evidence and wandered toward the 
ancestor chambers. He peeked into the newest chamber. Mudande was 
still busily lecturing the unfortunate Abt on the finer points of scrim- 
shaw. Abt stood glaze-eyed, his plate of sausages growing cold, as Mun- 
dande shoved a particularly large sperm whale tooth in his face. Behind 
them, grim as death, stood the figure of Captain Obadiah Steelyard as 
he had appeared in 1790, with long, patriarchal beard and odd cylindrical 
hat. Made out of multicolored porcelain, he was a clever reconstruction 
from engravings. He held a massive iron-headed harpoon. The room was 
full of nautical artifacts and smelled of the sea. No one but Mudande and 
his victim had entered the room for the entire time of the party. 

The next chamber was that of Amy Farnsworth, an 1840’s Abolitionist. 
She was almost as severe as her newest co-ancestor, hair pulled back, 
though with an inappropriate corkscrew curl dangling in front of each 
ear in deference to style, high forehead creased with care, eyebrows 
beetling like storm clouds. Probably the only time in her life she had 
ever smiled was when John Brown hit Harper’s Ferry. The room smelled 
of tea and Bible leather. 

The third ancestor chamber belonged to Chris O’Hanrahan, an Irish 
pol from the 1930s. He was a fat, genial, corrupt man, sloppily dressed. 
A map of South Boston as it had been before it sank hung on the wall 
behind him. This room smelled of tobacco and whisky, and was Sussman’s 
favorite. For someone whose father had been a Nuba tribesman from a 
hill village in central Sudan, Yevgeni Mudande had managed to acquire 
a distinguished Boston family. 

“Garner!” Tara Mudande swept into the room. “Come here. That damn 
ecclesiastical insect — ” 

“The centaur. Bishop 24. Be careful, Mrs. Mudande, he’s one of the 
most influential aliens on Earth.” 

“I don’t care! Mastic stole some of his food, and he wants to challenge 
the cat to a duel.” Mastic was renowned in the household for his skill at 
hooking food. 

“He wants that damn tomcat for dessert,” Sussman said cruelly. “I’m 


THE ADOPTION 


203 


not so sure I shouldn’t let him eat it.” He thought for a moment. In 
fighting sentience duels, centaurs were willing to accept their opponents’ 
definitions of sentience: the equivalent of giving the challenged party 
choice of weapons. If he could convince the Bishop 24 that the cat defini- 
tion of sentience was the ability to catch mice . . . Mastic was damn good 
at catching mice. Sussman had watched him at it in one of Mudande’s 
waterfront warehouses. What would the centaur do if he lost a sentience 
duel to a domestic specimen of Felis catus? The thought was too charm- 
ing. The Bishop 24 would be completely uninterested, the whole affair 
would turn out a total disaster, and Mudande would become enraged. 
Mudande had plans for the Bishop 24. 

“Stay out of the way,” Sussman said. “Well out of the way.” 

Tara Mudande started to bridle, then nodded. “I’ll wait here.” 

Sussman headed for the living room. Let no one say that he didn’t earn 
his salary. . . . 

Of the complex space that was the Mudande house. Garner Sussman’s 
quarters were the only place he felt was his own: a small bedroom, an 
even smaller study, and a bathroom, now lit with the dim blue he pre- 
ferred before bed. A humble monastic cell for the great scholar he had 
once wanted to be. He liked the feel of the smooth wood floor on his bare 
feet. 

Sussman walked into the bedroom, undoing the sash of his velvet robe, 
and froze. Yevgeni Mudande stood at the bureau like some immense idol 
reminding a dilatory devotee that sacrifice had not yet been made. 

Sussman yanked at his robe, outraged that his private domain had 
been invaded. “What are you doing here?” 

Mudande glared at him, no longer the jovial host. “Sorry. Something’s 
come up. Business. Let’s go.” 

“But I want to sleep,” Sussman said, looking with longing at the bed, 
its coverlet temptingly turned down to show the flannel sheets. “Can’t it 
wait?” 

“No.” 

“You’re always doing this. You have no sense of moderation.” 

Mudande quirked his full lips. “Maybe that’s why you work for me.” 

“Maybe that’s why I can relax and you always have a bee up your ass.” 
He paused. “It’s important? Aliens involved?” 

“Didn’t I say that? First substantive contact with a new species. Just 
thought you’d be interested.” 

Sussman took a deep breath. “Let’s go.” 

Mudande’s office was three levels above the main part of the house. 
“House,” in Boston in the 2080s, was a slippery term. Since the Inner 
Ring, that part of the city preserved from sinking into Boston Harbor, 


204 


ALEXANDER JABLOKOV 


was virtually packed solid with living structure, individual buildings no 
longer existed. The Mudande house was a specified geometric airspace, 
closed in on three sides. The fpurth side opened out on one of the deep 
light-canyons. It had copper cupolas and a fanlight over the door. 

Mudande’s office was an ancient subway car, its seats ripped out, 
welded into the structure of the residential tower. In contrast to the fuss 
of the rest of the house, it was almost undecorated. Light came from the 
original fixtures. The windows were quiescent now, pearly gray, though 
they could display data or holographic images on command. Sussman 
rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands and sat down on one of the 
hard stools. 

“I think I may have an interesting opening,” Mudande said. “A species 
from out along the Perseus axis, called the Llonr. Know them?” 

“As much as anyone does. Associated with the Targives, which means 
they probably have an improbable physiology and an incomprehensible 
psychology, though no one knows. They dropped through the Rabbit Hole 
about half a year ago and have been hiding out somewhere in Boston 
Harbor ever since. What do you have on them?” 

“Not a lot.” Mudande drummed his thick fingers on the desk. “An 
opening. I overheard a conversation two days ago during dinner at the 
Benedictine. That fool Abt and one of his pet sources at IPOB. Abt is just 
the kind of person who talks about things like that at the club. Crude. 
Abt thinks he can make money from the Llonr, because they have a 
problem, and someone in the Interstellar Port of Boston thinks they can 
profit from it as well. That fit with a few other things I had heard. 
Something’s gone wrong. The Llonr need of help. I put two and two 
together and got something between three and five.” 

The Benedictine was Mudande’s club. NANA, as they said. No Aliens 
Need Apply. And very few humans had the qualifications either. Suss- 
man had been in the Guest Lounge several times for a glass of Calvados, 
but that was as far as he was allowed to go. Beyond the heavy bronze 
doors that sealed the Guest Lounge off from the rest of the club, the real 
business of Boston went on. There the men and women who ran the most 
powerful economic machine in Earth’s history exchanged gossip that 
caused gains and losses in amounts that required scientific notation for 
their expression. 

“All right,” Sussman said. “So, bright and early tomorrow morning 
I’ll—” 

“No. I need the information by tomorrow, sunset. That’s when our 
appointment is. You should start now.” 

“What?” Sussman yelped. “That’s outrageous.” 

“That’s business.” Mudande stood up. “Think you can do it?” 

Sussman looked sulky. “Looks like I’ll have to.” 


THE ADOPTION 


205 


“That’s the spirit I like to see! I’ll meet you at the entrance of Miller’s 
Hall, tomorrow sunset.” 

“You’ll want translation?” Sussman said, slowly. 

“Of course. We have an account with the Targives, don’t we? It’s part 
of the trading agreement. You can get Llonr language lessons from them 
easily enough.” 

“And turn my brain inside out.” 

“You think I don’t pay you enough? Get to work. And change out of 
that ridiculous robe. You’re not a student anymore.” 

The first thing Garner Sussman noticed when he stepped through the 
Pearl Street water gate was the smell of the sea. It smelled of salt and 
seaweed and fioating garbage. It smelled of forgetfulness, for the mighty 
city that rose up out of the water had turned its back on it. Waves lapped 
somewhere below him. His eyes adjusted to that exterior night which 
never truly came inside the city, and he saw the moving lights of the 
barges, ferries, and launches that filled the moonlit harbor, physically 
supporting the city which ignored them. Boston grabbed for the stars, 
but its feet still stood in the water. 

Sussman couldn’t see the water itself, but he could sense it, wet and 
slimy, waiting for him. “Anyone there?” he called. 

“Plenty of us,” came the reply. “Who do you want?” 

Sussman walked forward nervously on the fioating dock, which rose 
and sank rhythmically in the waves. The walls of the Old City Ring kept 
the moonlight at bay, and he had neglected to bring a light of his own. 
Vessels crowded the dock, everything from hovercraft to augmented- 
surface-tension waterwalkers. The summer night was surprisingly 
warm. Sussman couldn’t remember the last time he had thought about 
what season of the year it was. 

“Marco Tander,” Sussman said. “Is he here?” 

“I am,” a voice answered reluctantly, as other voices laughed, or mut- 
tered remarks to each other. When city dwellers sought the water, it was 
for no good purpose. 

“I need a water taxi.” Sussman stepped forward. “It’s important.” 

“Important, he says. What’s so important about it?” Tander sat 
slumped against the mooring post of his boat, only the glow of the end 
of his cigarette visible. 

“I’m buying transportation,” Sussman said. “Are you selling? Or are 
you just hanging out here enjoying the breeze?” 

The cigarette flared one last time, then arched off into the water. 
Tander coughed and stood up. “Why do you want me? My boat’s a hull- 
down. Slow.” 

“Is everyone here as eager for business as you?” 


206 


ALEXANDER JABLOKOV 


“I don’t know, why don’t you ask them?” 

“Francine Cherna recommended you,” Sussman said. “She said you 
had guts. Frankie’s smart, but she’s been wrong before.” 

Tander paused. “All right, all right. Standard rates. Around the city 
and up the Charles? There are easier ways of getting to Harvard, God 
knows.” 

“We’re not going to Harvard. We’re going to South Boston.” 

“The hell we are, startit sucker.” 

Francine Cherna kept to the old life, the one Sussman had given up. 
She got dressed in the bedroom while her husband Ettore stood at the 
door, arms folded, as if on guard duty, and stared coldly at the richly 
dressed stranger who had forced his way into their living room, a 
stranger who had turned out to be an old schoolmate, well forgotten. 

“I’m sorry about this, Ettore,” Sussman said. “It’s important.” 

“Of course it’s important.” Ettore was a big man with a thick neck. 
His bathrobe was tattered. “To someone else. Why else would you be 
here?” 

“Stop it, Ettore,” Frankie said from inside. She opened the door, 
dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. “Go back to bed. Garner and I will 
talk. No, you’ll just make trouble. Bed for you.” With a final glower at 
his wife’s former lover, Ettore vanished into the bedroom, pulling the 
door shut behind him. The door was warped, and sprang back open. He 
pulled it closed slowly, in a silence more searing than any curses. 

Cherna, big brown eyes and tousled hair, exactly as she had been as 
a student, tilted her head quizzically. “So, Garner, your businessman 
had insomnia, and you’re awake.” 

“Something like that.” He took a breath. “It’s been a long time.” 

She stared at him solemnly for a long moment, so that he could remem- 
ber how he had drawn away from her, from all of them, over the years. 
Then she smiled, her head tilted slightly the way she always did, as if 
she had just remembered something amusing that had nothing to do 
with the situation at hand. She timed it well enough that he understood 
that the smile was a gift, not something he deserved. “Yes it has,” she 
said. “What do you want. Garner?” 

“What makes you think I want something?” He winced inwardly at 
the falseness in his tone. 

“Come on.” She quirked the side of her mouth. “Who makes social calls 
at three in the morning? You need my help. What is it?” 

Frankie and Ettore’s room was about the size of Sussman’s own quar- 
ters in the Mudande house, but shabbier. In Boston even austerity cost 
money. The floor was painted gray and the walls were cracking and 
mildewed. A large blackboard hung on one wall, covered with molecular 


THE ADOPTION 


207 


and anatomical diagrams. Two empty wine bottles lay against a pile of 
papers in a comer. Every available surface was covered with books, 
dataforms, and alien artifacts. 

Cheraa yawned widely. “Sorry. Lar, Ettore, Carol, and I were up late.” 
She pointed at the blackboard. “Carol thinks she’s got spatien physiology 
figured out. She believes they were invented by the Targives. Hell, she 
thinks we were all invented by the Targives.” 

Sussman remembered what it was like to spend the night drinking 
wine and arguing with friends about things of importance instead of 
managing soirees for Yevgeni Mudande. “She might be right,” he said. 
He moved some books off a chair and sat down. “What do you know about 
the Llonr?” 

Cherna pirouetted slowly in the middle of the room, her eyes turned 
upward in thought. Sussman looked at her in wonder. Her hair its eternal 
mess, her eyes still sticky with sleep, was she really just as beautiful as 
she had been all those years ago? Age had seized her. There were crow’s 
feet around her eyes and her chin was less chiseled than it had been. 
But age had held her gently. The lines in her face were like the creases 
in fine fabric which grew more lustrous the more it was handled. And 
when she turned her dark eyes on him, looking at the hairy-eared, over- 
weight tool of wealth he had become, he knew that he had never been 
as young as she was now. 

She grinned at him. “Your boss is after some strange ones, isn’t he? 
Let’s see what I can show you.” She dove into the clutter of books at one 
end of the room and unerringly pulled out a single dataform. The accu- 
racy of her random-access filing system had always frustrated Sussman. 
But then, his old lover was a genius, which he never would be. “The 
Llonr are probably the most conservative race in the Galaxy, and with 
good reason. However they evolved, or whoever made them, they have a 
genetic memory component. They retain their ancestors’ memories, back 
a thousand generations. There are probably Llonr who can still chip flint, 
or who remember being there when the first grain was sown. Even the 
smallest Llonr baby seems a hundred years old. It recalls having seen 
the sun rising over Eden, or the Llonr equivalent.” 

She fitted the dataform into a reader. A diagram of a Llonr gene locus 
exploded in the air between them and spun around, fragmenting and 
reforming. Sussman walked forward into it and ran his hands up the 
curving stairway of a gene, feeling its smooth logic. He tasted the tang 
of sulfur-containing amino acids and the chalky sweetness of base sugars, 
and smelled the acrid manufacture of memory RNA. Endless rows of loci 
glittered around him like stained glass, back into time, their common 
genes rumbling in chorus like the leitmotifs of a Wagner opera. 

He roamed through them, opening the genes up like a bear ripping 


208 


ALEXANDER JABLOKOV 


through oozing honeycombs, examining the codings for organelle metab- 
olism, the subtle pathways of nerves, the personality traits of shyness 
and love. Reduced iron atoms held the structure like linchpins, he no- 
ticed, catalyzing reactions. They vibrated lazily, buzzing at him like bees. 

“The iron,” he said. “It’s very odd. . . .” 

Frankie looked impressed in spite of herself ‘That’s true. The Llonr 
home world circles an ancient Population II star and is short of heavy 
elements. Iron is the heaviest available, and even that is not abundant.” 

He looked through the genes at her. “Looks like the presence of iron 
is necessary for reproduction. Coming to Earth must be like an aphrodis- 
iac to the Llonr.” 

She laughed, a trifle harshly. “The iron has to be entirely non-radioac- 
tive. Their genes have little defense against ionizing radiation. That 
means that it has to have been smelted before 1945, preferably before 
the 1800s, when coal burning started to release a lot of radioactive radon 
into the atmosphere. Not enough of that kind of iron around to stimulate 
them.” 

Sussman never failed to be impressed by her command of the minutiae 
as well as the essentials. Did he really now spend his time talking to the 
likes of Salton Abt and Tara Mudande? Why? “How do they keep from 
scrambling the memories through recombination?” he asked, though he 
suspected he knew. He wanted to hear her voice say it. 

“The Llonr rigidly retain gene lines, breeding in for pure memories. 
Each clan has its own shared memory store, as well as its shared tastes, 
neuroses, and obsessions. Some clans build the same building over and 
over, ever larger. Some have elaborate systems of music or philosophy 
that are incomprehensible to anyone else. The longer each clan remains 
distinct, the stranger it gets.” 

Sussman wandered out of the gene loci and stood in front of a pattern 
of curving lines, a simple drawing, the obsession of one Llonr clan. A sun 
rose in the cleft between two hills and a tree’s long branches hung down 
over it. The pattern of two hills, a sun, a tree remained unchanged for 
millennia. He saw it daubed in ocher on the wall of a cave, impressed 
with a stylus in a slab of wet river mud, carved deep into a massive 
granite slab, painted in fresco on the plaster wall of a villa, slapped in a 
thick impasto of oil paint on a stretched canvas, dyed on a garment with 
vivid aniline dyes, and finally flickering on a liquid crystal computer 
screen in two hundred fifty-six colors. 

“Can I borrow that dataform?” Sussman asked. 

She looked at him. “Why does your boss think he can profit from the 
Llonr?” 

“Don’t say ‘profit’ as if it were a dirty word,” Sussman said, keeping 
his voice cool. It was their old, old argument. 


THE ADOPTION 


209 


“Why did you come back here, Gamer?” 

“I — because you’re the best, Frankie. You always have been.” 

She nodded and with a quick movement tossed him the dataform. He 
caught it clumsily, almost dropping it. “You always were a practical 
man. Gamer. You knew that I couldn’t help but be interested in the 
Llonr, because no one else knows anything about them. We never change, 
do we? Where are you going now?” 

Sussman sighed heavily. “Where else? Telegraph Island, to the Tar- 
gives. I need translator training. We’re meeting with the Llonr tomorrow 
evening.” 

For the first time he sensed she was jealous, which gave him some 
small measure of satisfaction. The Targives could provide knowledge, 
but the price was so high that only the great magnates could afford it. 
She stared at him. “And your boss expects you to rip your mind open so 
that he can talk deals with the Llonr.” 

He shrugged. “It’s part of the job.” 

“So practical. Except about the things that matter.” She turned away 
from him. Her body was still slender under the loose sweatshirt. Sussman 
almost reached out to her then. But he didn’t. Yevgeni Mudande and 
Ettore made the distance too far for that. No, that wasn’t fair. Gamer 
Sussman had made that distance too far, without help from anyone. 
“How are you going to get there?” she asked suddenly. 

“Ah, boat. How else?” 

She shook her head and smiled. “You never pay attention to anything, 
do you. Garner? The water carriers are barely traveling. They haven’t 
been for a week.” 

“A strike?” 

“No. A fear. Oh, don’t ask me now. I know a man who can take you 
where you want. I grew up with him. Marco Tander. Ask for him. He’ll 
do it.” She looked back at him. “You hate the water, don’t you. Garner?” 

“You know I do.” 

He lay on his back in the boat, gasping for breath. Did the mind- 
rooting really get worse every time? The Targive citadel at Telegraph 
Island lay behind them as Tander steered their way home. Sussman 
gazed up at the sky as morning drew itself across the stars and felt the 
crawling of Targive-generated knowledge at the back of his head, like 
maggots teeming in a decaying corpse. Who knew what neurons now 
slithered through the interstices of his central nervous system? In provid- 
ing knowledge, the Targives sold not only software but hardware, opti- 
mal neural processors that mimicked the activities of alien brains. Some 
small part of Sussman’s brain would forever work like a Llonr cortex. 
What had the Targives scooped out to make room for it? 


210 


ALEXANDER JABLOKOV 


Marco Tander glumly directed the boat back toward Boston, ignoring 
the muttered convulsions of his passenger. He looked as if he still regret- 
ted having been persuaded to go, despite the obscene price Sussman had 
finally been compelled to pay him. In the sunlight Tander turned out to 
be a small man with a large handlebar moustache. Tander’s boat, an 
ancient Boston whaler called the Queequeg, was much the worse for wear 
and, by daylight, did not look very seaworthy, at least to Sussman’s 
landlubber eye. 

Sussman sat up and looked at Tander. Tander ignored him, gazing off 
toward the horizon, where the swollen sun had just risen. Waves lapped 
at the boat. Water absorbed everything in the end — filth, bodies, and 
souls — sucked down into the wet darkness. Ahead of them loomed the 
glittering mass of Boston, less a city than a coral reef looming from the 
sea, growing ever higher even as it sank into the water. Sussman was 
anxious to feel dry stability beneath his feet again. Oddly enough, 
Tander, whose life was spent afloat, looked tense himself. His eyes con- 
stantly scanned the water. 

“You and Frankie grew up together?” Sussman asked. 

Pause. “Yeah. In Jamaica Plain.” A poor neighborhood, not considered 
worth saving, now under the ocean. The engine thrummed. Tander mi- 
nutely adjusted the tiller and looked out over the water again. 

“What’s out there, Marco? What are you afraid of?” 

“Just shut up and enjoy the ride, black-hole licker.” 

Sussman snorted, amused in spite of himself “Come on, Marco. It’s a 
long way. Tell me.” 

“I don’t expect you to believe it. You’re a city person. You don’t know 
anything about the water. There’s a . . . sea monster in the harbor. Don’t 
laugh. It lives down where the commercial wharves sank. You’re lucky 
I took you. It’s not every man that would have.” 

The meeting hall, long and wide with a low ribbed ceiling, was brightly 
lit and bare of furniture. The air system soughed gently, scented with 
spice. A vividly colored rug covered the floor, elaborately patterned with 
fractal geometries. Sussman and Mudande sank into it up to their ankles. 
They both wore short padded jackets in a minute diamond pattern, Suss- 
man’s black and white, Mundande’s black and red, with wide cuffed 
pants in contrasting lozenges and narrow shoes. 

“Where did this place come from?” Mudande asked. “I thought I knew 
all of Miller’s Hall. The damn place keeps getting bigger.” He looked 
down at his feet where the rug swirled in complex intertwined spirals in 
black, yellow, and red. “Great rug. It would look good in the dining room, 
don’t you think?” 

“It’s recent. The Targives added it for the convenience of some of their 


THE ADOPTION 


211 


trading partners.” Sussman shook his head, but the fuzziness caused by 
the Targive modifications remained. 

Mudande stopped and glanced around, examining the hall more care- 
fully. “All right. Garner. What are we in?” 

Sussman grimaced. “A mouth, Yevgeni. A giant mouth. The original, 
I think, was a lizard that lives on Eta Carina IV. The Targives modified 
it, the way they like to do. Gives good environmental control and repairs 
itself.” The edges of the rug, near the wall, curled up slightly and moved 
along in ripples. “The rug, of course — ” 

‘The tongue.” Mudande grimaced. “I get the picture. Has it ever swal- 
lowed anyone?” 

‘The digestive system is still the original size. Tiny. It’s in one of the 
corners somewhere. It lives on the trash people drop, moved to it by the 
tongue. Still want it for the dining room?” 

Mudande snorted. ‘Tara would kill me.” 

They stopped in the center of the room. Five Llonr came out to meet 
them. They moved slowly and ponderously, as if the accumulated centu- 
ries of memory had physical weight. They were bipeds, but had forelimbs 
so long that they rested their weight on them when they were not mov- 
ing. Their bodies were invisible beneath elaborate clothing covered with 
colored straps and jingling bells. Their heads were sunk into their shoul- 
ders and they slumped forward, since their eyes were almost on top of 
their heads. These were members of one gene line. Sussman knew that 
other Llonr behaved and dressed quite differently. 

One of them made a sound like ball bearings running over a corrugated 
iron roof, and Sussman sank into the words of the Llonr language. He 
listened for a while, then talked back, which hurt his throat. His new 
brain writhed in his head and he wanted to throw up. 

Sussman finally turned to Mudande. “They have a question for you. 
The form of the answer is important. It’s not just polite curiosity. They 
want to know if you are the descendant of Captain Obadiah Steelyard.” 

Sussman had known Mudande for almost ten years. This was the first 
time he could remember his looking surprised. The expression vanished 
quickly. “Tell them yes. I am honored to list Captain Steelyard among 
my ancestors.” 

Sussman gargled at the Llonr, and listened to their reply. His head 
pulsed with each word. “That seems to have been the right answer, 
Yevgeni. I think this is the reason you managed to get this appointment. 
The Llonr have no concept of adoption. Now they want you to do them a 
favor. Say no.” His voice was sharp. 

“What? Why should I say no? Is that the polite formulation?” 

“No, damn it!” To his surprise Sussman found himself shouting. “Say- 
ing yes will be a commitment. They have gene memories, remember. If 

212 ALEXANDER JABLOKOV 


you’re descended from Steelyard you must have the memories of a Boston 
whaling captain.” 

“Well, maybe I do. Gamer.” His voice was cold and angry. “You trans- 
late and give cultural advice, right? Don’t screw with the business side. 
Salton Abt is hot on this contact too. If having a whaler as a ancestor is 
my advantage, good. Tell them yes. As my ancestor’s descendant, I will 
do them a favor.” 

When Sussman turned back to him a moment later his face was white. 
“In that case, they would like you to recover for them something they 
have lost, their pet and companion, Miltor.” 

Mudande had been catching some of Sussman’s tension. At this news 
he smiled in relief. “I remember once when Mastic got out and went 
wandering out along the canyons. I would have rewarded anyone for that 
damn cat’s return. And I don’t even like him. If that’s — ” 

“Miltor is a sea-going creature weighing about fifty tons,” Sussman 
said with dull solidity, slamming each word in like a blow. “He is their 
pet, and their god, and is something like half a million years old. He’s 
somewhere out in Boston Harbor. They would be very grateful to have 
him back here by tomorrow.” Sussman’s mind was flickering. He felt the 
pain of the Llonr at the loss of their living idol. Miltor! His great bulk 
loomed over their world. None of them could remember a time when they 
did not have him. 

A look of dismay flashed across Mudande’s face and vanished. “Thank 
goodness the Harbor isn’t very deep,” he said briskly. “Set up another 
engagement with them, will you, Garner? Then we can go up to Obad- 
iah’s chamber and talk with him about it.” 

“This is insane,” Marco Tander said. 

“Shut up,” Mudande snapped. “I’m paying you enough, aren’t I? A 
fortune for a slow and noisy boat.” 

“Making craziness profitable doesn’t make it sanity.” 

Mudande snorted and ignored him, staring off at the horizon. The early 
morning shore breeze rippled the dark waters of the harbor. Boston 
loomed above them. Its shadows now fell out over the poorer neighbor- 
hoods north and west of the city and the sea was in full light. Queequeg 
growled along through the shallow waters of the old commercial dock 
areas. The water was too murky for the ruins of what was left of that 
part of Boston to be seen below. The only ship on the Harbor was a rusty 
old fishing vessel with nets held up above its deck. 

“Tell me what we’re after. Garner,” Mudande said. 

“You’ve heard it a dozen times,” Sussman said sullenly from his post 
at the center of the boat. The furry head of a Phneri popped out of the 
water to starboard. Sussman put an electronic talker to his lips and 


THE ADOPTION 


213 


whistled at the Phneri. The Phneri replied with a fluting glissando and 
vanished again. The Phneri had been contracted to help locate Miltor, 
more as a favor to them than anything else. They took the whole thing 
as a lark. 

“I want to hear it again.” 

“You’re just trying to calm me down by taking my mind off the idea 
that we’re all going to be killed.” 

‘Tell me the story, dammit! Earn your goddam salary.” Mudande cra- 
dled the heavy wood and iron of Obadiah Steelyard’s harpoon in his arms 
and rested his head against it. 

“Miltor is a colonial organism, like a Portugese man-of-war or a volvox, 
consisting of hundreds of lesser organisms who reproduce separately. It’s 
been the pet, the focus, the obsession of this group of Llonr for hundreds 
of thousands of years, almost since they evolved enough to have con- 
sciousness. It’s the last of its kind.” 

“As if a group of humans had a pet saber-toothed tiger or woolly 
mammoth.” 

Sussman nodded. “It remembers everything too, holographically 
through all of its constituents. It’s been escaping from them from all 
those years too, repeatedly.” 

Mudande scratched in his thick graying hair and snorted. “The things 
people will put up with to have a pet. Ridiculous.” 

A dozen Phneri heads suddenly popped out of the water at once and 
shrieked. Their duty finished, they dove under and swam like crazy. 

“That’s it then,” Mudande said, the evenness of his words revealing 
his tension. He stood up and took off his shirt. His massive torso gleamed 
in the sun like polished ebony. He held the harpoon up over his head. 
“Here, Miltor,” he crooned. “Here it is. Clean, unradioactive iron. This 
harpoon was made in 1779. As clean as you’ll find on this dirty planet. 
Three hundred years old. Come here, boy, and get your rocks off.” 

There was a moment of silence, as if, beneath the water, Miltor were 
considering this offer. Then, sensing the iron, it came. 

Tander yelped once and turned the boat hard to port. Torrents of water 
roared from the bulk of Miltor as it emerged from the sea. Queequeg was 
cast into darkness as Miltor rose into the sun, featureless as a mass of 
volcanic rock. Mudande was thrown sideways by the unexpected swerve 
of the boat and cursed. 

For a long moment Sussman was too terrified to do anything. Then 
the Llonr brain took over. Above them was Miltor, the creature that 
defined his gene line. Miltor was lost and terrified. Sussman wrestled 
the tiller away from Tander, elbowing him in the face, and turned the 
boat back toward Miltor. 

“Excellent. Speed the boat. Garner!” They came closer. Mudande 

214 ALEXANDER JABLOKOV 


pulled his arm back slowly and, as gracefully as the Queequeg’s name- 
sake could have, hurled the harpoon at Miltor. It flew smoothly, finally 
vanishing as a tiny sliver against Miltor’s immense bulk. For a long 
moment everything remained motionless. Sussman had the sensation 
that Miltor had risen too far out of the water and was now toppling 
slowly toward them. 

Then Miltor shrank and fell in on itself It disappeared into fragments 
like a thick swarm of bees suddenly going their separate ways as the 
elemental iron was absorbed, serving as a powerful signal for reproduc- 
tion. Miltor came apart into its elemental entities for this purpose. In 
five minutes nothing was left but the writhing fish-like shapes of Miltor’s 
reproductive structures. 

By this time Sussman had managed to remember how to breathe. He 
dropped the tiller and collapsed, gasping. “We can recover any of these,” 
he said, gesturing at the quick creatures beneath the boat, which made 
the water dense with silver. “Miltor’s memory is holographic. Each is 
complete.” Phneri leaped and chuckled among the fish-like fragments of 
the great creature, delighted with its dissolution. 

“Each has the complete memory, but the focus will be hazy,” Mudande 
said. “I am giving them Miltor, not a fuzzy reproduction of him. Thank 
Grod the Bishop 24 has good business contacts.” 

“What?” Sussman looked up. The fishing vessel they had seen earlier 
was dipping its nets into the water, grabbing a rich harvest of Miltor. 

“No one in Boston invests in fishing anymore,” Mudande said. ‘Too 
archaic, not interstellar enough. Too wet. The centaur doesn’t care. He 
was the only one I could find with the right equipment readily available. 
I’m glad you helped me make friends with him.” 

Sussman settled back in the boat and watched the nets with their 
shining loads of squirming fish. “Thank Mastic,” he said. “The cat’s a 
true diplomat. More than I am, certainly.” 

Sussman lay with the back of his head against the wooden gunwale. 
Llonr thoughts flickered through his mind and he thought of the joy they 
would feel at having Miltor back. They would do anything for Mudande 
& Associates at that point. He was starting to get used to the new nerves 
that had been shoved into his skull. Soon he wouldn’t remember how 
he’d lived without them. 

“No argument there.” Mudande grinned happily into the sunlight. “Is 
that the basis of interstellar amity, then? Our pets?” 

“Our pets,” Sussman replied. “And our employees.”# 



THE ADOPTION 


215 


VINLAND 
THE DREAM 



by Kim Stanley 


Robinson 


What the future may reveal 
about our past may be 
enlightening . . . and 
heartbreaking. Mr. 
Robinson’s newest 
collection of short stories, 
Remaking History, will be 
published in hardcover 
by Tor Books in December. 

In addition to the cover 
story, the collection will 
include a number of tales 
first published by iAsfm. 

art: Janet Aulisio 



Abstract. It was sunset at L’Anse aux Meadows. The water of the bay 
was still, the boggy beach was dark in the shadows. Flat arms of land 
pointed to flat islands offshore; beyond these a taller island stood like 
a loaf of stone in the sea, catching the last of the day’s light. A stream 
gurgled gently as it cut through the beach bog. Above the bog, on a 
narrow grassy terrace, one could just make out a pattern of low mounds, 
all that remained of sod walls. Next to them were three or four sod 
buildings, and beyond the buildings, a number of tents. 

A group of people — archeologists, graduate students, volunteer labor- 
ers, visitors — moved together onto a rocky ridge overlooking the site. 
Some of them worked at starting a campfire in a ring of blackened stones; 
others began to unpack bags of food, and cases of beer. Far across the 
water lay the dark bulk of Labrador. Kindling caught and their fire 
burned, a spark of yellow in the dusk’s gloom. 

IJot dogs and beer, around a campfire by the sea; and yet it was 
strangely quiet. Voices were subdued. The people on the hill glanced 
down often at the site, where the head of their dig, a lanky man in his 
early fifties, was giving a brief tour to their distinguished guest. The 
distinguished guest did not appear pleased. 

Introduction. The head of the dig, an archeology professor from McGill 
University, was looking at the distinguished guest with the expression 
he wore when confronted by an aggressive undergraduate. The distin- 
guished guest, Canada’s Minister of Culture, was asking question after 
question. As she did, the professor took her to look for herself, at the 
forge, and the slag pit, and the little midden beside Building E. New 
trenches were cut across the mounds and depressions, perfect rectangular 
cuts in the black peat; they could tell the minister nothing of what they 
had revealed. But she had insisted on seeing them, and now she was 
asking questions that got right to the point, although they could have 
been asked and answered just as well in Ottawa. Yes, the professor 
explained, the fuel for the forge was wood charcoal, the temperature had 
gotten to around twelve hundred degrees Celsius, the process was direct 
reduction of bog ore, obtaining about one kilogram of iron for every five 
kilograms of slag. All was as it was in other Norse forges — except that 
the limonites in the bog ore had now been precisely identified by spec- 
troscopic analysis; and that analysis had revealed that the bog iron 
smelted here had come from northern Quebec, near Chicoutimi. The 
Norse explorers, who had supposedly smelted the bog ore, could not have 
obtained it. 

There was a similar situation in the midden; rust migrated in peat at 
a known rate, and so it could be determined that the many iron rivets 


VINLANO THE DREAM 


217 


in the midden had only been there a hundred and forty years, plus or 
minus fifty. 

“So,” the minister said, in English with a Francophone lilt. “You have 
proved your case, it appears?” 

The professor nodded wordlessly. The minister watched him, and he 
couldn’t help feeling that despite the nature of the news he was giving 
her, she was somewhat amused. By him? By his scientific terminology? 
By his obvious (and growing) depression? He couldn’t tell. 

The minister raised her eyebrows. “L’Anse aux Meadows, a hoax. Parcs 
Canada will not like it at all.” 

“No one will like it,” the professor croaked. 

“No,” the minister said, looking at him. “I suppose not. Particularly 
as this is part of a larger pattern, yes?” 

The professor did not reply. 

‘The entire concept of Vinland,” she said. “A hoax!” 

The professor nodded glumly. 

“I would not have believed it possible.” 

“No,” the professor said. “But — ” He waved a hand at the low mounds 
around them — “So it appears.” He shrugged. “The story has always 
rested on a very small body of evidence. Three sagas, this site, a few 
references in Scandinavian records, a few coins, a few cairns. . . .” He 
shook his head. “Not much.” He picked up a chunk of dried peat from 
the ground, crumbled it in his fingers. 

Suddenly the minister laughed at him, then put her hand to his upper 
arm. Her fingers were warm. “You must remember it is not your fault.” 

He smiled wanly. “I suppose not.” He liked the look on her face; sym- 
pathetic as well as amused. She was about his age, perhaps a bit older. 
An attractive and sophisticated Quebegois. “I need a drink,” be confessed. 

“There’s beer on the hill.” 

“Something stronger. I have a bottle of cognac I haven’t opened yet . . .” 

“Let’s get it and take it up there with us.” 

Experimental Methods. The graduate students and volunteer laborers 
were gathered around the fire, and the smell of roasting hot dogs filled 
the air. It was nearly eleven, the sun a half hour gone, and the last light 
of the summer dusk slowly leaked from the sky. The fire burned like a 
beacon. Beer had been flowing freely, and the party was beginning to 
get a little more boisterous. 

The minister and the professor stood near the fire, drinking cognac out 
of plastic cups. 

“How did you come to suspect the story of Vinland?” the minister asked 
as they watched the students cook hot dogs. 

A couple of the volunteer laborers, who had paid good money to spend 

218 KIM STANLEY ROBINSON 


their summer digging trenches in a bog, heard the question and moved 
closer. 

The professor shrugged. “I can’t quite remember.” He tried to laugh. 
“Here I am an archeologist, and I can’t remember my own past.” 

The minister nodded as if that made sense. “I suppose it was a long 
time ago?” 

“Yes.” He concentrated. “Now what was it. Someone was following up 
the story of the Vinland map, to try and figure out who had done it. The 
map showed up in a bookstore in New Haven in the 1950s — as you may 
know?” 

“No,” the minister said. “I hardly know a thing about Vinland, I assure 
you. Just the basics that anyone in my position would have to know.” 

“Well, there was a map found in the 1950s called the Vinland map, 
and it was shown to be a hoax soon after its discovery. But when this 
investigator traced the map’s history, she found that the book it had been 
in was accounted for all the way back to the 1820s, map and all. It meant 
the hoaxer had lived longer ago than I had expected.” He refilled his cup 
of cognac, then the minister’s. “There were a lot of Viking hoaxes in the 
nineteenth century, but this one was so early. It surprised me. It’s gen- 
erally thought that the whole phenomenon was stimulated by a book 
that a Danish scholar published in 1837, containing translations of the 
Vinland sagas and related material. The book was very popular among 
the Scandinavian settlers in America, and after that, you know ... a 
kind of twisted patriotism, or the response of an ethnic group that had 
been made fun of too often. ... So we got the Kensington stone, the 
halberds, the mooring holes, the coins. But if a hoax predated 
Americanae ... it made me wonder.” 

“If the book itself were somehow involved?” 

“Exactly,” the professor said, regarding the minister with pleasure. 
“I wondered if the book might not incorporate, or have been inspired by, 
hoaxed material. Then one day I was reading a description of the field 
work here, and it occurred to me that this site was a bit too pristine. As 
if it had been built but never lived in. Best estimates for its occupation 
were as low as one summer, because they couldn’t find any trash middens 
to speak of, or graves.” 

“It could have been occupied very briefly,” the minister pointed out. 

“Yes, I know. That’s what I thought at the time. But then I heard from 
a colleague in Bergen that the Gronlendinga Saga was apparently a 
forgery, at least in the parts referring to the discovery of Vinland. Pages 
had been inserted that dated back to the 1820s. After that, I had a doubt 
that wouldn’t go away.” 

“But there are more Vinland stories than that one, yes?” 

“Yes. There are three main sources. The Gronlendinga Saga, The Saga 

VINLAND THE DREAM 219 


of Erik the Red, and the part of The Hauksbok that tells about Thorfinn 
Karlsefni’s expedition. But with one of those questioned, I began to doubt 
them all. And the story itself. Everything having to do with the idea of 
Vinland.” 

“Is that when you went to Bergen?” a graduate student asked. 

The professor nodded. He drained his plastic cup, felt the alcohol rush- 
ing through him. “I joined Nielsen there and we went over Erik the Red 
and The Hauksbok, and damned if the pages in those concerning Vinland 
weren’t forgeries too. The ink gave it away — not its composition, which 
was about right, but merely how long it had been on that paper. Which 
was thirteenth century paper, I might add! The forger had done a super 
job. But the sagas had been tampered with sometime in the early nine- 
teenth century.” 

“But those are masterpieces of world literature,” a volunteer laborer 
exclaimed, round-eyed; the ads for volunteer labor had not included a 
description of the primary investigator’s hypothesis. 

“I know,” the professor said irritably, and shrugged. 

He saw a chunk of peat on the ground, picked it up and threw it on 
the blaze. After a bit it flared up. 

“It’s like watching dirt burn,” he said absently, staring into the flames. 

Discussion. The burnt-garbage smell of peat wafted downwind, and 
offshore the calm water of the bay was riffled by the same gentle breeze. 
The minister warmed her hands at the blaze for a moment, then gestured 
at the bay. “It’s hard to believe they were never here at all.” 

“I know,” the professor said. “It looks like a Viking site. I’ll give him 
that.” 

“Him,” the minister repeated. 

“I know, I know. This whole thing forces you to imagine a man in the 
eighteen twenties and thirties, traveling all over — Norway, Iceland, Can- 
ada, New England, Rome, Stockholm, Denmark, Greenland. . . . Criss- 
crossing the North Atlantic, to bury all these signs.” He shook his head. 
“It’s incredible.” 

He retrieved the cognac bottle and refilled. He was, he had to admit, 
beginning to feel drunk. “And so many parts of the hoax were well hidden! 
You can’t assume we’ve found them all. This place had two butternuts 
buried in the midden, and butternuts only grow down below the St. 
Lawrence, so who’s to say they aren’t clues, indicating another site down 
there? That’s where grapevines actually grow, which would justify the 
name Vinland. I tell you, the more I know about this hoaxer, the more 
certain I am that other sites exist. The tower in Newport, Rhode Island, 
for instance — the hoaxer didn’t build that, because it’s been around since 
the seventeenth century — but a little work out there at night, in the 


220 


KIM STANLEY ROBINSON 


early nineteenth century ... I bet if it were excavated completely, you’d 
find a few Norse artifacts.” 

“Buried in all the right places,” the minister said. 

“Exactly.” The professor nodded. “And up the coast of Labrador, at 
Cape Porcupine where the sagas say they repaired a ship. There too. 
Stuff scattered everywhere, left to be discovered or not.” 

The minister waved her plastic cup. “But surely this site must have 
been his masterpiece. He couldn’t have done too many as extensive as 
this.” 

“I shouldn’t think so.” The professor drank deeply, smacked his numbed 
lips. “Maybe one more like this, down in New Brunswick. That’s my 
guess. But this was surely one of his biggest projects.” 

“It was a time for that kind of thing,” the volunteer laborer offered. 
“Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria. . . .” 

The minister nodded. “It fulfills a certain desire.” 

“Theosophy, most of that,” the professor muttered. “This was different.” 

The volunteer wandered off. The professor and the minister looked into 
the fire for a while. 

“You are sure?” the minister asked. 

The professor nodded. “Trace elements show the ore came from upper 
Quebec. Chemical changes in the peat weren’t right. And nuclear reso- 
nance dating methods show that the bronze pin they found hadn’t been 
buried long enough. Little things like that. Nothing obvious. He was 
amazingly meticulous, he really thought it out. But the nature of things 
tripped him up. Nothing more than that.” 

“But the effort!” the minister said. “This is what I find hard to believe. 
Surely it must have been more than one man! Burying these objects, 
building the walls — surely he would have been noticed!” 

The professor stopped another swallow, nodded at her as he choked 
once or twice. A broad wave of the hand, a gasping recovery of breath: 

“Fishing village, kilometer north of here. Boarding house in the early 
nineteenth century. A crew of ten rented rooms in the summer of 1842. 
Bills paid by a Mr. Carlsson.” 

The minister raised her eyebrows. “Ah.” 

One of the graduate students got out a guitar and began to play. The 
other students and the volunteers gathered around her. 

“So,” the minister said, “Mr. Carlsson. Does he show up elsewhere?” 

“There was a Professor Ohman in Bergen. A Dr. Bergen in Reykjavik. 
In the right years, studying the sagas. I presume they were all him, but 
I don’t know for sure.” 

“What do you know about him?” 

“Nothing. No one paid much attention to him. I’ve got him on a couple 
transatlantic crossings, I think, but he used aliases, so I’ve probably 


VINLAND THE DREAM 


221 


missed most of them. A Scandinavian-American, apparently Norwegian 
by birth. Someone with some money — someone with patriotic feelings of 
some kind — someone with a grudge against a university — who knows? 
All I have are a few signatures, of aliases at that. A flowery handwriting. 
Nothing more. That’s the most remarkable thing about him! You see, 
most hoaxers leave clues to their identities, because a part of them wants 
to be caught. So their cleverness can be admired, or the ones who fell for 
it embarrassed, or whatever. But this guy didn’t want to be discovered. 
And in those days, if you wanted to stay off the record . . .” He shook his 
head. 

“A man of mystery.” 

“Yeah. But I don’t know how to find out anything more about him.” 

The professor’s face was glum in the firelight as he reflected on this. 
He polished off another cup of cognac. The minister watched him drink, 
then said kindly, “There is nothing to be done about it, really. That is 
the nature of the past.” 

“I know.” 

Conclusions. They threw the last big logs on the fire, and flames roared 
up, yellow licks breaking free among the stars. The professor felt numb 
all over, his heart was cold, the firelit faces were smeary primitive masks, 
dancing in the light. The songs were harsh and raucous, he couldn’t 
understand the words. The wind was chilling, and the hot skin of his 
arms and neck goosepimpled uncomfortably. He felt sick with alcohol, 
and knew it would be a while before his body could overmaster it. 

The minister led him away from the fire, then up the rocky ridge. 
Getting him away from the students and laborers, no doubt, so he 
wouldn’t embarrass himself Starlight illuminated the heather and bro- 
ken granite under their feet. He stumbled. He tried to explain to her 
what it meant, to be an archeologist whose most important work was 
the discovery that a bit of their past was a falsehood. 

“It’s like a mosaic,” he said, drunkenly trying to follow the fugitive 
thought. “A puzzle with most of the pieces gone. A tapestry. And if you 
pull a thread out . . . it’s ruined. So little lasts! We need every bit we 
can find!” 

She seemed to understand. In her student days, she told him, she had 
waitressed at a caf§ in Montreal. Years later she had gone down the 
street to have a look, just for nostalgia’s sake. The cafi§ was gone. The 
street was completely different. And she couldn’t remember the names 
of any of the people she had worked with. “This was my own past, not 
all that many years ago!” 

The professor nodded. Cognac was rushing through his veins, and as 
he looked at the minister, so beautiful in the starlight, she seemed to 


222 


KIM STANLEY ROBINSON 


him a kind of muse, a spirit sent to comfort him, or frighten him, he 
couldn’t tell which. Cleo, he thought. The muse of history. Someone he 
could talk to. 

She laughed softly. “Sometimes it seems our lives are much longer 
than we usually think. So that we live through incarnations, and looking 
back later we have nothing but . . .” She waved a hand. 

“Bronze pins,” the professor said. “Iron rivets.” 

“Yes.” She looked at him. Her eyes were bright in the starlight. “We 
need an archeology for our own lives.” 

Acknowledgments. Later he walked her back to the fire, now reduced 
to banked red coals. She put her hand to his upper arm as they walked, 
steadying herself, and he felt in the touch some kind of portent; but 
couldn’t understand it. He had drunk so much! Why be so upset about 
it, why? It was his job to find the truth; having found it, he should be 
happy! Why had no one told him what he would feel? 

The minister said good-night. She was off to bed; she suggested he do 
likewise. Her look was compassionate, her voice firm. 

When she was gone he hunted down the bottle of cognac, and drank 
the rest of it. The fire was dying, the students and workers scattered — in 
the tents, or out in the night, in couples. 

He walked by himself back down to the site. 

Low mounds, of walls that had never been. Beyond the actual site were 
rounded buildings, models built by the park service, to show tourists 
what the “real” buildings had looked like. When Vikings had camped on 
the edge of the new world. Repairing their boats. Finding food. Fighting 
among themselves, mad with epic jealousies. Fighting the dangerous 
Indians. Getting killed, and then driven away from this land, so much 
lusher than Greenland. 

A creak in the brush and he jumped, startled. It would have been like 
that: death in the night, creeping up on you — he turned with a jerk, and 
every starlit shadow bounced with hidden skraelings, their bows drawn 
taut, their arrows aimed at his heart. He quivered, hunched over. 

But no. It hadn’t been like that. Not at all. Instead, a man with spec- 
tacles and a bag full of old junk, directing some unemployed sailors as 
they dug. Nondescript, taciturn, nameless; one night he would have wan- 
dered back there into the forest, perhaps fallen or had a heart 
attack — become a skeleton wearing leathers and swordbelt, with spec- 
tacles over the skull’s eyesockets, the anachronism that gave him away 
at last. . . . The professor staggered over the low mounds toward the 
trees, intent on finding that inadvertent grave. . . . 

But no. It wouldn’t be there. The taciturn figure hadn’t been like that. 
He would have been far away when he died, nothing to show what he 


VINLAND THE DREAM 


223 


had spent years of his life doing. A man in a hospital for the poor, the 
bronze pin in his pocket overlooked by the doctor, stolen by an under- 
taker’s assistant. An anonymous figure, to the grave and beyond. The 
creator of Vinland. Never to be found. 

The professor looked around, confused and sick. There was a waist- 
high rock, a glacial erratic. He sat on it. Put his head in his hands. Really 
quite unprofessional. All those books he had read as a child. What would 
the minister think! Grant money. No reason to feel so bad! 

At that latitude midsummer nights are short, and the party had lasted 
late. The sky to the east was already gray. He could see down onto the 
site, and its long sod roofs. On the beach, a trio of long narrow high- 
ended ships. Small figures in furs emerged from the longhouses and went 
down to the water, and he walked among them and heard their speech, 
a sort of dialect of Norwegian that he could mostly understand. They 
would leave that day, it was time to load the ships. They were going to 
take everything with them, they didn’t plan to return. Too many skrael- 
ings in the forest, too many quick arrow deaths. He walked among them, 
helping them load stores. Then a little man in a black coat scurried 
behind the forge, and he roared and took off after him, scooping up a 
rock on the way, ready to deal out a skraeling death to that black in- 
truder. 

The minister woke him with a touch of her hand. He almost fell off 
the rock. He shook his head; he was still drunk. The hangover wouldn’t 
begin for a couple more hours, though the sun was already up. 

“I should have known all along,” he said to her angrily. ‘They were 
stretched to the limit in Greenland, and the climate was worsening. It 
was amazing they got that far. Vinland. . . .” He waved a hand at the 
site — “was just some dreamer’s story.” 

Regarding him calmly, the minister said, “I am not sure it matters.” 

He looked up at her. “What do you mean?” 

“History is made of stories people tell. And fictions, dreams, hoaxes — ^they 
also are made of stories people tell. True or false, it’s the stories that 
matter to us. Certain qualities in the stories themselves make them true 
or false.” 

He shook his head. “Some things really happened in the past. And 
some things didn’t.” 

“But how can you know for sure which is which? You can’t go back 
and see for yourself. Maybe Vinland was the invention of this mysterious 
stranger of yours; maybe the Vikings came here after all, and landed 
somewhere else. Either way it can never be anything more than a story 
to us.” 

“But . . .” He swallowed. “Surely it matters whether it is a true story 
or not!” 

224 


KIM STANLEY ROBINSON 


She paced before him. “A friend of mine once told me something he 
had read in a book,” she said. “It was by a man who sailed the Red Sea, 
long ago. He told of a servant boy on one of the dhows, who could not 
remember ever having been cared for. The boy had become a sailor at 
age three — before that, he had been a beach-comber.” She stopped pacing 
and looked at the beach below them. “Often I imagined that little boy’s 
life. Surviving alone on a beach, at that age — it astonished me. It made 
me . . . happy.” 

She turned to look at him. “But later I told this story to an expert in 
child development, and he just shook his head. ‘It probably wasn’t true,’ 
he said. Not a lie, exactly, but a . . .” 

“A stretcher,” the professor suggested. 

“A stretcher, exactly. He supposed that the boy had been somewhat 
older, or had had some help. You know.” 

The professor nodded. 

“But in the end,” the minister said, “I found this judgment did not 
matter to me. In my mind I still saw that toddler, searching the tidepools 
for his daily food. And so for me the story lives. And that is all that 
matters. We judge all the stories from history like that — we value them 
according to how much they spur our imaginations.” 

The professor stared at her. He rubbed his jaw, looked around. Things 
had the sharp-edged clarity they sometimes get after a sleepness night, 
as if glowing with internal light. He said, “Someone with opinions like 
yours probably shouldn’t have the job that you do.” 

“I didn’t know I had them,” the minister said. “I only just came upon 
them in the last couple of hours, thinking about it.” 

The professor was surprised. “You didn’t sleep?” 

She shook her head. “Who could sleep on a night like this?” 

“My feeling exactly!” He almost smiled. “So. A nuit blanche, you call 
it?” 

“Yes,” she said. “A nuit blanche for two.” And she looked down at him 
with that amused glance of hers, as if ... as if she understood him. 

She extended her arms toward him, grasped his hands, helped pull 
him to his feet. They began to walk back toward the tents, across the 
site of L’Anse aux Meadows. The grass was wet with dew, and very green. 
“I still think,” he said as they walked together, “that we want more than 
stories from the past. We want something not easily found — something, 
in fact, that the past doesn’t have. Something secret, some secret mean- 
ing . . . something that will give our lives a kind of sense.” 

She slipped a hand under his arm. “We want the Atlantis of childhood. 
But, failing that . . .” She laughed and kicked at a clump of grass; a 
spray of dew flashed ahead of them, containing, for just one moment, a 
bright little rainbow. # 


VINLAND THE DREAM 


225 



art; Gary Freeman 




THE FOURT 
INTERCOMETARY 


The following tale shares the 
same milieu as the author’s 
earlier story, “Blossoms” 
(August 1991). "The Fourth 
Intercometary” is an enthralling 
tale ot clanger, romance, and 
hard-edged science fiction on 
an exotic and unforgettable Mars. 


-4/16 Arcimedo 49- 


Mars hung huge in Phobos’ sky, illuminating a moonscape of white 
tubeways and slate-dark shielding. A forest of solar collectors lay almost 
out of sight behind the horizon. Ahead, three Essex-class shuttles sat 
squat amid umbilical connections. 

Trailing the pilot, two suited figures bounded up a not-quite-transpar- 
ent tube to the first shuttle’s passenger deck. “We could still switch to a 
random launch plan,” Arundhati said as she pursued Morse Bragolio’s 
half-swimming form. “It won’t delay us long to let a computer decide our 
fate.” 

Arundhati’s powerful norm muscles worked easily against this moon’s 
trifling gravity. She moved with a smoothness that belied all fear. How 
to explain my lack of jitters? she asked herself. Am I too stupid to believe 
in the chance of my own death? 

It’s more crass than that, she decided. The money and time spent get- 
ting here, the gadgetry lavishing their shuttle — it would be too horrible 
a waste if all that was blown away by some crackpot enemy. If the 
authorities on Mars really believed they were at risk, they’d — What? 
What were their choices? 

In contrast to her adroit advance, her shorter boss clambered grace- 
lessly, his legs jerked into motion (it seemed to her) by a series of con- 
scious commands. Morse Bragolio had no rhythm, and little sense that 
he moved differently than anyone else. His white shockley hair was dyed 
brown, a futile disguise, since the face it crowned was deeply grooved 
and rubbery of feature. The man was a genius, but his talents were less 
than universal. Egotistical though he was, in some ways he had no self- 
awareness at all! 

And he lacked charm. “We’ve talked this over. If they don’t know which 
of the three launches I’m in, they’re least likely to shoot down the first, 
for fear it’s a stalking horse. They know we know that, and you might 
suppose that makes it the least safe after all, but once you enter these 
convolutions, there’s no end of them. Easier to kill me down on the 
planet. Or make a seemingly sincere attempt.” 

“We don’t know what to think,” Arundhati responded, faithfully quot- 
ing her belowside liaison. “These hostile feints could be playacting as 
you’ve guessed. Even so, the weapons are real.” Flattery was always in 
order. “You’re a major resource to humankind. This media circus you’ve 
arranged — ^you’re making it easy for your brother — ” 

Morse talked over the last word to erase it. “Why not? It gives us 
control to stage these dangerous moments inside a security box. Uh, how 
do these confounded straps work?” 

Arundhati got her boss snugged in time for the brief launch, little 
more than a drop-away from the tiny moon. And now to Mars, our new 
home! If we make it. But they were committed, and worrying about 
interceptor missiles couldn’t help. It would just wear at her, eating holes 
in her courage. There must be other things to think about! 


228 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Arundhati spoke: “Viewscreen on, please.” Below and behind them, the 
great molten wound of Isidis Planitia shone with its own light through a 
haze of turbulent clouds, the target of one comet after another. The 
Martian crust was three times as thick as Earth’s, but under repeated 
blows it had cracked open. Eons from now the planet might even have 
tectonic plates. 

Thanks to Isidis and the thunderheads it fostered, the land beneath 
the Essex-1 was the greenest, warmest part of Mars. Up ahead, the “high 
country” of Tharsis and the old volcanos would eventually become the 
major continent, rifting in two if Mariner Valley began to widen. Time 
would bring the polar oceans into balance, shrinking the Throxus and 
flooding the Boreal to double size. 

What thoughts these were! Hopes worthy of a planetary engineer! 
Visions worthy of the people who seized comets and aimed them with 
uncanny accuracy! 

This present Mars was sixteen years old, with seventeen years to go. 
These were the middle ages, the middle decade of the fourth intercom- 
etary. Comet Proehl was well inside Saturn’s orbit, and spiraling down. 
When it hit Isidis with gifts of ice and gasses, any colonists not in exile 
would batten down to hibernate, their cherished garden libraries reduced 
to shelves of fruit seeds. 

Proehl would be followed by Yildiz-Kaya three years later. Ten more 
months would pass before the first adventurers came out of their tombs. 

Four long Martian years would separate the fourth and fifth intercome- 
taries, a literal dark age. Arundhati sighed, thinking of the cherished 
mementos she’d left behind her, back on Earth. Better for her if they’d 
been destroyed by a comet, taken from her by an angry fate, burned and 
buried. 

She’d betrayed them, auctioned them or given them away, all for her 
career. They called to her, an eighteenth century fioor-stand mirror, 
a Victorian mantel-clock, a twentieth century Pasternak; treasures of 
unacceptable mass. You can still come home, they said, and it was a lie. 

Three facts: Father was tragically, unrestorably dead; Mamaji was a 
Krishna-hhakti gone from Winnipeg to haunt the Ganges; and home 
was Mars. Yes, home was Mars. It was seventeen years from now, and 
Arundhati’s things were boxed in a Martian igloo at the very moment of 
doom. An epic video played in her head — a cometary glow across a mid- 
night sky, a blinding fiash of light, then quakes and lava plumes and 
dust and floods. 

The igloo was gone in an instant. The cameras of Arundhati’s imagina- 
tion rolled on while she sat confined to this crash seat, waiting for some- 
one beyond the forward edge of the planet to maybe shoot a missile at 
her, and end all these apocalyptic fantasies. 

She wondered if Morse pondered even grander visions. Suited as he 
was, it was impossible to tell. Equally it was impossible to tell whether 
the stiffness of a normally stiff man meant that he was afraid. 

Afraid? Excited? You don’t give a research facility like Gledhill Labs 

THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 229 


to a Shockley without some sense of fate; as when you give an orchestra 
to a conductor, or a great ship to a sea captain. Metaphorically Morse 
was a bridegroom, looking forward to his great wedding, to his director- 
ship. What powerful ideas surged through his brain? 

On the half of Mars that included Fournier LTO, it was night when the 
shuttle landed, a classic tail-down onto frequently scorched pavestone. 
People pointed from the observation deck, finding the Essex-1 as ar- 
resting as its passengers found the lava helds that glowed along the 
horizon. “I want that background in the press tapes,” Morse said, touch- 
ing helmets with Arundhati. “It makes the planet seem less livable.” 

Here at last! Arundhati felt like championing this world that hadn’t 
killed her: if it was worth the risk of her life, it was worth loving. “Things 
grow here,” she answered. “Lots of genetically adapted vegetation. Try 
to daunt new colonists. Some will persist in coming, and they’re got 
enough people here already. Enough to reseed the fifth intercometary.” 

“And all doing their damnedest to hamper research. ‘Anything too 
dangerous to do on Earth is too risky for Mars.’ Idiots! Must we wait for 
the pilot to debark?” 

“We’ll go first. How do you feel?” 

Morse thought before answering. “Strong. We’d be noodles in Earth 
gravity after such a long trip.” 

“Our suits are adjusting to outside pressure. What about your ears?” 
Arundhati persisted. 

“Young lady. I’m no tuber. I can take pressure changes as well as any 
norm. In loading us shockleys with handicaps and neuroses, your people 
saw fit to be generous with a few particulars.” 

Arundhati could hardly blush, not noticeably with her pitch-black 
skin. “It looks like they’re hooking up the gantry to our exit. If you’ll 
stay in the whiteroom I’ll go first and see to the press.” 

Almost she expected a response: Careful, you’re all I’ve got until the next 
two shuttles come down. A norm might have said that. This particular 
Shockley held silent. 

He knew she reported to him, but also to the power structure here on 
Mars, the PMC. She’d liaised into that structure even before meeting 
any PMC leadership, by virtue of her job. She was Igor to Morse’s Doctor 
Frankenstein, but she was also the new director’s nanny, because all 
shockleys were kept under watch. And that was fine. Morse didn’t expect 
personal loyalty from norms. Words like treason and betrayal meant 
little to hirti. 

On giant khod-wheels the gantry rolled away from the shuttle with 
its two whiteroom passengers, and did a slow pirouette before telescoping 
into its new target. During these minutes the usual sultry recording 
went through the usual welcome: “ — and on Comet Trinity six scholars 
had their fantasy quests translated into six colors of fruit, and took the 
liberty of seeding the prefectures of Mars when their comet hit the planet, 
so now there are fans of Red Antonia, and Yellow Taddeo, and Black 


230 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Hassan — ” Morse sat behind, enduring the lecture, while Arundhati 
made her way into the LTO terminal. 

Mars! — and Martians! The place had its own low-budget grandeur, like 
the international showcase of some Central Asian satrapy. The wall- 
boards blinked through their cycles, no paper posters here. Paper was a 
lot more expensive on Mars than back on Earth. 

A vidcam crowd awaited, drab in their ankle-length overcoats. Arund- 
hati felt self-conscious about the different style of her shuttle suit; form- 
fitting and plastic-white. Hey, okay. I’m from another planet, right? What 
do I know? In the rush of questions she asked her own; “Who’s official 
here? We want to set up a press conference. How about out on that 
deck? How’s the O 2 ? We don’t want airsnoods, and we’d like lava in the 
background.” 

“Er, customs first.” A take-charge type shooed the press away with 
proihises. On Arundhati’s signal, Morse clambered down the passageway 
in relative privacy, to be scanned and briefiy questioned. 

Customs was a walk-through separated from the main waiting area 
by liothing more than a metal rail. Various official icons were mounted 
on the back wall. Most prominent were three group photos; five norms, 
five dime-diminutives and five snomos. The flag of Mars was modeled on 
the flag of Earth, red in place of blue, and the two moons and a ring of 
satellite mirrors instead of the open laurel wreath. 

The larger room beyond the metal rail was windowed on three sides. 
A glass airlock led outside to an observation deck. There the vidcam 
jockeys clustered, now that they’d been herded off, most of their cameras 
on standby: they were saving their tape for the press conference to come. 
Security people stood among them, and if Arundhati’s boss expected a 
big reception, they were it. The other clots of humanity were here for 
their own purposes. They were curious only because chance had dropped 
an Essex- 1 out of the skies, and some wandered close. 

One of the curious was a tall young tuber, pink and overplump and 
nervous, garishly half-clad under her open overcoat. Her snood hung 
loose around her neck. Arundhati saw her peek at the shuttle, then at 
Morse, then at the shuttle again. 

Morse hardly noticed her, though any other man would have looked 
with interest at such a mix of beauty, breasts and bad taste. She had a 
young, pretty face, although she seemed insecure. Too bad it was hard 
to maintain ideal proportions under point three eight gees, because with 
some diet and exercise . . . 

Arundhati hadn’t yet completed that thought when the woman drew 
a gun from her snood. She had no time and no options, just dive forward 
and thrust her body in front of the shockley she worked for. Of course. 

The killer got off two firecracker-shots before someone tackled her; two 
plastic bullets from a contraband single-action plastic gun, not high 
caliber, and not necessarily lethal. Bad luck this time, or Arundhati 
would have lived instead of fountaining blood out of the hole in her neck. 

The pain! Hot blood ran down her arms. Arundhati’s profligate heart 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


231 


beat on, pumping her hopes away. She sprawled onto the red-slicked tile. 
The chief customs officer leapt over his barrier desk. “Get her to the 
columbarium! Kumar, Annabel! Somebody patch in a Code Red! Subitu! 
Saltu! — it looks like an artery!” 

Arms seized her off the floor. Ceiling tiles whipped past her view, 
dimming until the universe went black. That was the last Arundhati 
remembered, before her soul was copied and saved to disk. 

The LTO columbarium was a small chapel with a memory helmet, a 
blank cartridge dispenser, and a temporary holding shelf. After the long 
minutes of memory transfer, the duty chaplain plugged her into a free 
cable and shut the door, hurrying off to vomit, and leaving the blood and 
mess for the daytime staff to deal with. 

A ghost voice soothed Arundhati as she sat shelved between her lives, 
in utter sensory deprivation. You have been saved to a state-of-the-art 
cyber-compatible medium. Your memories have been translated via 
UNESI protocols, upgrade twenty-nine dot two. If this default procedure 
was taken against your wishes you have the right to be magwiped follow- 
ing an obligatory . . . 

It might have been Arundhati’s own thoughts, except for all this press 
of detail. It told her things she didn’t know about Martian law. It said 
she’d be offered new flesh; the body of (pause for an update, hand typed 
letter by letter. Pause for L-i-s-b-e-t- -H-u-m-e, the woman who’d killed 
her.) 

Arundhati could stay as she was, a cyber-brain “bug” with all sorts of 
sensory and mobility options, or she could become a tall, good-looking, 
overweight female tuber. Data about Lisbet Hume flooded in at nineteen 
point two kbaud. When this offer was formally extended it would not be 
an easy choice to make, because Lisbet was of borderline sanity. 

That meant something was wrong with her brain chemistry, but 
maybe not. She was smart, but she was the mental runt of her over- 
achieving family, and she had an incredible need to prove important; by 
lying, by show-off stunts, and now by trying to murder the new director 
of Gledhill Labs. 

Arundhati’s bug -versus -Lisbet choice would be redundantly explained 
to her by a local judge, and she’d answer the offer “yes” or “no.” But not 
yet. Not for days to come. 

Until the Essex-2 and Essex-3 came in, Morse was on his own, with 
no cheerful norms to run his errands this next hour. Damn! Arundhati 
fretted, thinking of the trouble her boss could get into — but why bother 
thinking about him, when he was certainly not thinking about her? Why 
delude herself? What they’d had was less than friendship, and never 
could be anything more. 

Welcome to Mars, Arundhati thought to herself. Or was it her doing 
the thinking? All this stuff streaming through her consciousness — none 
of it came tagged; this datum from outside, and this from her own mind. 
Still she recognized her own sense of irony. All this work to get here, and 
now I’m dead. Not a good omen. 


232 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Arundhati was wrong to suppose that Morse had dismissed her com- 
pletely from his thoughts. As might be expected of a shockley, he resented 
being deprived of her services. Petulantly he initialed the form that 
let the locals carry her former habitus off for compost, remedying the 
deficiencies of Martian soil. 

But laying these emotions aside, it was interesting that the murder 
had been attempted. It left things up in the air. To make no try on 
Morse’s life would have proved that his brother Lester wasn’t that upset 
to be forced out of Gledhill Labs. 

Morse had seen pictures of the place, all ice and snow, greenhouse 
panels and storage tanks, the externals giving few clues to the empire 
of practical research hidden inside. To give Gledhill away without 
threats and bloodshed would make people curious, and someone would 
look deeply into Lester’s endeavors. 

Now that chain of possibilities had been diverted. Lester could skulk 
off with his secrets intact. So he’d hope, perhaps not realizing how devi- 
ous norms could be. Bringing Morse to Mars had been a norm plot, hadn’t 
it? 

These weren’t comfortable thoughts, and Morse found the idea of his 
twin brother quite vexing. They had identical XY chromosomes, clones 
L and M out of a batch of sixteen Bragolios. Morse hated his fifteen 
siblings sight unseen. They were thieves of his potential fame. 

Five were at the pinnacles of their diverse fields and hard not to read 
about. Lester had almost reached that status, and Morse was pleased to 
see him quashed. But still there was thqt odious fact of genetic in- 
timacy . . . 

Lester would be very like Morse in looks. A showdown was not to be 
borne. Given that Morse was still alive, Lester should soon hurry out 
of Gledhill, evacuated to wherever losers go. Superannuated research. 
Doomed projects. All those would go too. 

"The attempt to apply proprietary methods to programs of public inter- 
est . . .” — words like that would paper over the changes. One main reason 
Morse was in Gledhill, and Lester was out, was that he’d kept his norms 
happy with fiuff talk. 

He made his speech and posed for publicity shots. A few kloms away 
a train was being put together, ten boxcars loading with foamstone for 
transport south. His own eleventh car would carry the gear he’d brought, 
and his core staff. 

A slow passage to Hellas, then a slow voyage by sea to Gledhill; all 
gave Lester time to make his escape. Dignity was at stake here, and for 
a shockley, dignity was life. No, they mustn’t confront each other. Lester 
had to know that. He must be driven by shockley urges. 

But Lester had “gone bad,” bad enough that Gledhill had been taken 
away to be Morse’s new fief. Morse fretted at the thought that his un- 
known brother might not act predictably. 

Morse was prodded out of these meditations by a burly man in a cus- 
toms uniform, a norm or a tuber of some dark-skinned ethnic group. 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


233 


“Sir? Come look at this. Emma says these boxes aren’t on the import 
list ...” 

He led the way, this man with his weight-lifter’s shoulders. Morse 
followed around the corner. Telephones, restrooms — what could be here? 

Emma nodded, a dime with a clipboard, an expression of sour dislike 
worn into her wizened-child’s face. The black man’s hand closed over 
Morse’s mouth, and his other arm hoisted him off the floor. 

A door stood open into a tight, deep cyber-closet, one of those anony- 
mous service doors that eyes are trained to ignore. Seeing it ajar was 
like suddenly discovering a new world, a more fundamental reality be- 
hind the stage-props of Fournier LTO. The dime woman shut it behind 
them, dancing clear of Morse’s legs as he kicked clumsily, banging his 
toes. He flailed in the dark, shockley dignity be damned, but his powerful 
abductor was careful not to swear out loud as he stuck a memory helmet 
onto Morse’s head. 

Moments later Morse ceased to struggle. Shockley or not, it took 
twenty minutes to copy his soul, the same as any other kind of human. 


-4/16 Arcimedo 49- 

To Yossi’s left, the video screen flickered with the colors of background 
lava. Patterns of hot light played across the porter’s desk and into the 
aisles of overnight storage. Yossi Jardac squinted, claim-tag in hand, 
watching the attendant tuck his bag away with proper care. 

Yossi listened to the news with half his attention, if only because his 
would-be brother-in-law showed up from time to time. What was this? 
Some happytime media event? Would Manager Randolph Mbika be 
there, preaching jobs and progress and a bright new future? 

“Rarely do comets erase a world’s greatest features!” the speaker 
orated in a shrill voice. “An ocean as shallow as the Throxus of Mars 
shifts age by age like a slow amoeba, but Hellas — Hellas will continue 
to be its deepest basin.” 

Lord bloody haysause, Yossi thought to himself. Is this a speech, or a 
lecture? Don’t make them guess where your passions lay, Randolph al- 
ways said, but this guy — 

Yossi peeked around at the screen. He saw a face as pink as his own 
under an unruly mane of brown hair, with predatory eyes and a hawklike 
nose. It was the face of a shockley, bred for genius but certainly not 
for show. The speaker’s shoulders were tense, his fingers clutched the 
lectern. 

Poor sod. I’ll give him another minute, Yossi decided, hoping to see the 
man make a fool of himself. The attendant returned and angled the 
screen to make it easier to watch. 

The shockley grew less strident, trying not to get in the way of his 
words: “Born of an impact a billion years ago, Hellas is a symbol of 
constancy on a world of cometary assaults no less brutal for the fact that 


234 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


they are scheduled and carefully targeted. Thanks to these assaults, 
long-buried seas have thawed and life has put down roots. 

“In this sixteenth year of the fourth intercometary, overflooded Hellas 
is dotted with islands in a long crescent. Gledhill lies at the eastern 
verge, Gledhill Labs at its crest. Why am I drawing this map for you? 
Because too many voters think scientific research is a menace to safety.” 

The Shockley lost his place, and spent long seconds finding it again. “So 
let me assure you on several counts. First, Gledhill Labs is quarantined, 
fourteen hundred kloms from the nearest rail terminal . . . .” 

Around that MarsBelt rail terminal, a city was rapidly growing on 
Hellas’s northern shores, doubling in numbers every year. It sprawled 
without a center, yet by any definition Eisenroth Chapterhouse sat on 
its edge. 

The Chapterhouse was a big gray foamstone igloo, supported by guild 
dues, mandatory and non-refundable. Captain Yossi Jardac was a cash 
man, not someone who got by on zalatwic. He liked money to work for 
him once he’d gone to the trouble of earning it. He could afford better 
lodgings than the Chapterhouse offered, but because of his extorted dues 
he slept here, part of the unlovely crowd. One cash per blanket and two 
for a pillow was a lot better than seventy cash for a room of his own 
along the Dimetown ring. 

Weary of Morse Bragolio’s speech, Yossi tipped the attendant for his 
trouble. It was a slow news night, and Yossi was too tired to play chess 
with Sargon XIX, too tired for a shot and chaser in the Chapterhouse 
lounge. He paid for bedding, moved down the hall to the central ward- 
room, found an upper bunk and settled in. 

Male seafarers outnumbered female on the usual ratio of sixty to ten. 
Sequestered by sex, the women had a choice of doubles or quads. Men 
dormed in an open barracks that stank of alcohol, fish, and flatulence. 
Two tubers kept up a mutual third degree across the dark upper bunks. 
The idiots thought themselves inaudible because they spoke Japanese. 

Wrong. 

In the lower bunk, Jemal the Eg3q)tian snored away; snockle, snuf-pu- 
pupp, fwee, plap-hoooEE, ch-chng; an amazing range of repertoire. 

The hotbox gave off a rippled glow visible to norms, but Yossi wasn’t 
a norm. Sleeping without tiepatch augments over his eyes, it was just 
the source of a hot iron-and-dust smell he liked, the smell of windmill- 
generated warmth. 

Yossi wasn’t a norm. He was a cheap and sour tuber who mused on 
his morning revenge. At oh four hundred he’d rise and dress: he was a 
fisherman, after all. The chattering Japs would be asleep, but he’d do 
some extra clumping around their bunks. He’d make “music,” loud 
sounds of zippers and velcro as he suited up to go out into temperatures 
of sixty below. 

Let them bitch. God, they were two peas in a pod — what did either find 
to talk about that the other didn’t already know? “Shut up!” Yossi 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


235 


growled. “Silentu!” Not nice of him, but people were pretty well agreed 
that he wasn’t a nice man. Why bother redeeming himself? Maybe they 
were right. 

The talking tubers couldn’t pretend not to understand elementary Es- 
peranto. They fell into a startled hush. Yossi almost got to sleep. Then 
the Finnish boy staggered into the dorm, singing: “The bug fell in love 
with the baobab tree — ” 

Lord bloody haysause. 

When Yossi thought about it, it amazed him that more than half the 
seamen here were norms. Norms never got drunk, or forgot their man- 
ners. Why did they endure so much loutishness? It was well within their 
rights if they sued for their own wardroom, and left tubers like him to 
their miseries. He’d have done it if he could. 

And we deserve it, Yossi thought. Unimproved raw humans, more vices 
than virtues. Mars had been promised as a tuber haven, like Texas had 
become a home for wild rhinos extinct in Africa. And tubers were damn 
rare on Earth, but the story wasn’t much different here; twelve thousand 
genetically untampered “natural humans” cozened along as an insurance 
policy for the human species. 

Tubers were a burden ninety thousand Martian norms carried in case 
their genetic diddling turned out to be a mistake. Yossi worked hard to 
be a useful, hard-nosed Martian, because he hated to think of himself as 
mere backup. 

Did norms laugh at him? Did they take him for a mug from the stone 
age? No, that kind of spiteful belittling — that’s what tubers were like. 
Yossi had to admit it. But it was important not to succumb to mulish 
pride, and turn vice into virtue. He’d been through that stage already. 

He liked to think he was intelligent about his self-hate, and no longer 
neurotic. He was evenhanded, anyhow. Us tubers are shits, but snomos 
are worse — and they’d been edited and “improved!” Then there’s shock- 
leys! Talk about screwed up! 

Yossi heard a snort from below. Praise God! His own snoring had 
woken Jemal up. The Egyptian rolled over. For Yossi on the upper bunk, 
the effect was like a marsquake. Where was he? He tried to let his 
thoughts drift on some new course .... 

Oh yes. The news. Tonight’s news had been full of that new immigrant. 
Rumor had it shockleys hated each other so much they never had sex. 
Each generation was bred from scratch. Put two in the same room and 
they’d go nuts! 

Five human editions lived on Mars. Norms, tubers, snomos, shockleys, 
and dimes — dime women. In the dark, Yossi smiled. Swarming over each 
other in their dimetowns — the way they liked to gangbang around .... 

Yossi closed down that part of his mind. No sense getting hot and 
bothered. He’d visit Dimetown next weekend. That would take care of 
those particular needs. 

Outside the Chapterhouse, the temperature plunged. Frost crystallized 
out of the fog-saturated air, thickening on surfaces or falling as snow. The 


236 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Throxus Ocean groaned and crackled, salogok with embedded migalik 
swelling, sheering, and lifting out of a lubricant of grease ice that froze 
and shattered under new pressures; shotgun snaps and compression 
squeaks too distant to hear from the far side of the tidal ice jumble of 
the alam al-mithral. The beautiful, deadly alam al-mithral. 

Fruit eaters don’t dream. Deep sleep is enough, and deep sleep is all 
they get. After five hours Yossi woke, his need for rest satisfied. He put 
on his tiepatch and swore at the time display. He swung down to the cold 
floor and donned thermals to make his run to the bathroom. 

Afterward, he put on his wigglesuit, urine transfer, bottoms, top, boots, 
hood, airsnood, gloves, and overmittens. A few norms on early schedules 
began to stir, but Yossi beat them all. He was ready for the Brave New 
Mars of the Fourth Intercometary, and all its lethal beauty. 

Messages, the tiepatch blinked, the word overlaid on reality. Greta 
Jardac to Yossi Jardac. Already? Yossi shook his head unhappily, be- 
cause a quick decision meant that his sister had taken that job on the 
edge of high country. 

Goodbye to his piggyback rides. To the extent that Yossi had a social 
life, she’d done it for him, parties full of the aimless talk that led to 
friendships, and in turn to zalatwic: a Polish word for an economy of 
favors, the kind friends do for each other. 

Zalatwic worked so well for norms like Greta that they hardly needed 
money. They were halfway to the utopia where it was from each ac- 
cording to her abilities, to each according to her needs. Yossi was too 
sleepy to pursue these thoughts, which didn’t have much to do with him, 
anyhow. But shit, he hated to see Greta go. 

Better she should have married Randolph right away. How long did 
norms stay fertile? Greta had gone into puberty at seven — seven Martian 
years — just like a tuber girl would have done, but did that mean she’d 
hit menopause in her early twenties? 

If they’d done more brother-sister living together he’d know the an- 
swer, but being of different editions . . . yeah, he’d been a jerk about that; 
his pale skin versus her melanin-boosted perfect black. Sour temper or 
not, Yossi was a sweetheart now, compared to how he was back then. 

He paid the sleepy attendant one cash to get his shopping bag out of 
overnight storage, and counted his boxes with a businesslike air. Some- 
one had peached a snood-filter and some mitten liners from him a couple 
of weeks ago. He had no intention of letting it happen again. 

Yossi left the Chapterhouse igloo through the airlock passage, braving 
the shock of unearthly cold. Dimetown lay behind and out of view, as 
was most of the other — how to say it? On Earth people would insist that 
this conurbation of cultures and editions deserved a name. Eisenroth, 
perhaps, or Helujon, after its dimetown. After all, it was the biggest port 
on the Throxus. All its parts were named, and Drumlin Avenue took 
Yossi steeply down between red/green marker barrels, into a desert of 
sculpted ice. 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


237 


The alam al-mithral, Arabic for a world halfway between reality and 
the realm of ideals, a world whose shapes were full of meaning. This was 
beauty! Even here on the temperate northern shores of Hellas, Mars’s 
not very salty southern ocean sheeted over every night, junking the 
strand with ice floes, a God-sized jigsaw puzzle dumped out in careless 
heaps. 

The newest slabs squeezed the older ones inland. They effervesced over 
time, wind-shriveled into distressed coronets, spires, and jester hats, 
melted plastic monsters, and Salvador Dali nightmares. All this was 
aged, but now Yossi reached the part where the younger maze loomed 
high, melding into — 

His empty stomach was making itself felt, and his metaphors were 
beginning to tend toward swiss cheese and layered flipflop tortes. He 
disappointed himself. Maybe if he ate more Red Antonias, he’d learn to 
be a poet. 

He switched his bag to the other arm and hiked on. Moving out from 
between the ice-heaps, Drumlin Avenue became the great curl of Eisen- 
roth Dock. The land fell seaward, but Yossi kept on the level. His tiepatch 
gave him some vision near an ocean that steamed fog through its cracks. 
The alam al-mithral dropped away and his vista opened. 

He was exposed. The Martian winds hit him, but they were mountain- 
thin even at sea level. He was strong enough to walk against them. 

Captain Yossi Jardac. Captain because that little overshadowed thing 
out there was his ship; his and the bank’s, and now his morning beauty- 
walk was over. He’d have to fight the night’s cold to wake that ship up. 

But not so much cold, because the liquid depth of the Throxus was a 
torrid two degrees Celsius. The Tipsy Witch never endured much below 
that, wallowing by the dock, her backup intelligence stored overnight in 
her deeply plunged anchors. She was well designed to work out her 
lifetime. Yossi’s investment was paying off, a thought that cheered him 
as he climbed aboard. 

Better yet, there was time to build more cogs of her size and squeak a 
profit before the end came. Randolph — should he think of him as lonely 
Randolph now — The Honorable Randolph Mbika had helped him work 
out the numbers. He urged Yossi to file them with the bank. They were 
tight numbers, but if the fish didn’t betray him he’d be okay, fickle fish, 
not predictable like comets. 

Comets, to destroy everything. Snomos pawing through our wreckage. 
Yossi drew energy from such irksome visions. He sprayed the carburetor 
with a fresh blast of ether, and gave the cord another tug. The bilge- 
pump chuffed a few times. Another tug, and another. At last the motor 
caught. 

Slush pulsed out the hose. He straightened up. No snomos here on the 
shores of Hellas, where the Martian air was thickest and the tempera- 
tures most naturally warm. 

Yossi smiled at his thoughts. The Tipsy Witch was a fishing cog by 
choice, an icebreaker by necessity. Such was warmth on Mars. 


238 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Most importantly, important enough to repeat, the Witch was a ship. 
“Ships” stood fast against the solar tides that made a colossal white maze 
of the alam al-mithral. “Boats” were light toys carried inland after each 
use. Yossi’s don’t-call-her-a-boat was experimentally small, but she held 
to her moorings next to the huge Berrieh. She deserved her captain’s 
pride, the pride of a man who took fresh stock of his love and hates most 
every morning. 

His sister’s message gave him reason to do so now. He was sure the 
words would hurt: and they did. "Randolph will tell you — we had quite a 
talk. Too many promises got made when we were kids. It takes lots of 
promises to get people to Mars, and sometimes promises were heard that 
were never spoken. It’s not just snomos who live in high country. And 
snomos aren’t one tenth as bad as you think. They have good hearts. Well 
anyhow, Randolph can tell you some options about visiting me once I’ve 
set up. He’ll tell you things I can’t E-mail, too. I only wish there were two 
of him. 

"I love you. I’m cashing in zalatwic for you, so expect some invitations 
to keep you busy. An order from your sister: Don’t ignore them! I’ve got 
my reasons. Keep safe.” 

In unfocused response, Yossi opened his snood and spat. His spittle 
stayed liquid on the deck for seconds before it froze. You’d never see that 
an hour before a high-country dawn. Spit shattered up there! 

Greta had bought the universal love ticket. "Good-hearted snomos!” 
Snomos were hardy — yes, he’d concede their bodily virtues. But they 
were drunks. White-furred and shaggy, they grunted for conversation. 
Their music was a monotonous thunk-thunk-thunk. They searched for 
wild fruit and ate them indiscriminately, heedless of their colors, merely 
to note their seeds’ sale value. They even ate Blue Gisbornes. And Greta 
was moving to the edge of high country just to traffic with them! 

“Norms’ll do anything,” Yossi said out loud, his voice muffled. He 
didn’t begrudge his sister’s superiorities, her resistance to disease, her 
talents, her underlying simpatio. Greta had been good to him, with that 
casual goodness that expected the best of everyone, and usually got it. 
But he was glad he didn’t see life through her rose-colored glasses. 

Yossi wondered if his jaundiced tuber-outlook gave him an evolution- 
ary edge in the long run. That would gratify him, because right now 
norms had it over tubers, despite biased policies that made it easy for 
Yossi to borrow money for the Tipsy Witch. The bank was keen to help 
him grow rich, so people could showcase him. “See? Tubers can do it. 
Tubers are okay!” 

Yeah, you bet. Yossi looked around. Cold fog steamed from black fis- 
sures between scabs of ice. Navigating the Throxus required instru- 
ments; radar, sonar, satellite. Or it would, if the planet’s little southern 
ocean were crowded with ships. As things were, Yossi liked to run out 
blind. It wasn’t the best way to harvest fish from the prolific shoals he’d 
found, but who knew what better sites he’d find by playing around a few 
mornings every week? 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


239 


He had economie-i-oom, and sea room. The sky was turning light and 
the last of the night skimmers had skated in. He climbed into the pilot 
house and rang for power. Then he tapped the cast-off macro and hit the 
RETURN key. 

That’s how he liked it early in the day; no pretenses. No fictoid Scotty 
in the engine room, no fictoid Smee tugging at the ropes, answering voice 
with jolly voice so he could think he wasn’t alone. He was satisfied to 
hear the rumble of his twin screws and the squeak of hull lifting on ice, 
and held his breath until the Witch rode that first powerful thrust down 
and forward, out to where black slushwater dominated the migalik floes 
and the seas were rich with life. 

Out to the “broad bosom of Hellas.” Yes, Yossi liked that. He started 
to mellow, thinking himself a rare man. A seafarer on Mars! License 
#312 out of barely a thousand in the worldwide guild! Ah, if only there 
were unknown shores, home to strange rich kingdoms! Something to 
compensate for his miserable Chapterhouse nights. 

But his days were good. His days. Who could beat his days! 

Yossi’s entire pilothouse-galley rode on gimbals. It held horizontal as 
the Tipsy Witch moved out to open slushwater, well into Hellas Bay. 
Yossi wheeled to port. Several hundred meters below these waves lay a 
transitional margin rich in fish; a border between crater-slope and the 
old flat dune country that distinguished Hellas back when Mars was dry 
and dead. 

The sun began cooking away the fog; a crazy sun that lurched with 
the sky as the seas rose and fell awesomely. The baseline of Martian 
waves — the distance from trough to trough — averaged twice as long as 
those on Earth, so no ship since the ill-fated Eisenroth herself could 
possibly even out the up-and-down action by her own length. More thrill- 
ing was the fact that Martian waves could surge higher, more massively, 
at sharper angles of slope, than any terrestrial counterparts. 

But they moved slowly. Yossi was used to that, and used to the fact 
that he rarely saw the “forward” part of his ship’s forward motion. Except 
when she crested high, it was possible to speak of claustrophobic seas, 
and feel halfway like a submariner, shut up in a tight can of narrowed 
horizons. 

A ship in a hurry would never sail these high waves, nor crunch 
through heavy ice too close to shore. A ship in a hurry had remarkably 
few choices, but Yossi had neither goals nor deadlines; not until his bitch- 
box crackled. A voice spoke to disturb his pleasure. "Gledhill Labs to 
Tripsy Witch. Gledhill Labs calling — ” 

“That’s Tipsy. Tipsy Witch!” Yossi answered. “What do you want? Hit 
me, turkey.” 

"Copy, Tipsy Witch. We have an emergency. We need you to run — this 
is closed beam, by the way — to run some people out of Gledhill. You’re the 
closest ship right now, and there’s three hundred thousand cash for your 
inconvenience. You may not be stocked for an eight day trip . . .” 


240 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


“Damned right. This isn’t a yacht.” 

"But we have supplies here, and nothing dangerous in mind,” the voice 
persisted over Yossi’s interruption. "It’s just that Director Bragolio has 
to evacuate before his brother gets here. Hit me.” 

“Ah.” 

"Is that all? Just ‘ah’? Look, I’m telling the truth. On my honor as a 
norm and a Ph.D., and whatever else I have going for me: this is safe, 
and it’s big cash for you. You got lucky, the closest blip on our screens. 
You’ll do the new director a favor too, preventing an embarrassing face- 
off. Hit me again.” 

Yossi’s voice softened. “Say on. Where are we going?” 

"Um, that 7 can’t tell you. But it won’t take more than eight days. Sorry. 
Director’s orders, I have to keep our secrets. You know shockleys.” 

“No place in this ocean takes eight days to get to. The Throxus isn’t 
that big.” Yossi paused and spoke again. “I want to see you. Visual. Hit 
me. 

The speaker’s face came over, line by line, filling the screen. He was 
genetically tailored black of skin, a norm as he claimed, and in an uncer- 
tain universe norm honor counted for something. "Okay?” he said. "My 
name is Hasday Ghazzabi. Check me out if you like, but don’t take so long 
someone else blips on my screen.” 

“Uh, yeah,T copy. But I don’t have a lot of space. I’ve got a fish hold 
and a weather deck, and room for four or five people, sleeping two to a 
shift. Hit me.” 

"We’re not in a position to choose. Repeat; three hundred thousand 
cash.” 

Yossi felt like arguing the price. It was customary. But this offer was 
so far beyond measure that he’d feel like an idiot wheedling for half a 
million. 

“Copy on eight days, three hundred thousand cash, name of Hasday 
Ghazzabi. I’m coming,” he answered. “I’ll check your credit on the way, 
and not waste time. I figure thirty hours. Don’t anybody eat beans to- 
night.” 

"Fine. Over and out.” 

“Okay,” Yossi said softly to the dead air. After a pause he spoke again. 
“Navscreen A, give me scale from here to Gledhill Island.” 

The screen lit up with a grid map. Yossi’s course was predestined. To 
get anywhere fast he had to turn inward and fare along the migalik ice 
fringe. He traced the next ten hours on the touch-sensitive surface. 

“Copy to command memory,” he said. The Tipsy Witch might have 
answered "I hear and obey” or something cute, but Yossi didn’t like cute. 
He said “Replay” to make sure his orders were correctly stored. 

Then he turned to the bitch-box and called Randolph, top priority rates. 
That ought to get the guy out of bed! 

Randolph answered in less than five minutes: "Yossi? Is that you?” 

“About Hasday Ghazzabi. Is he okay?” Yossi answered cryptically, to 
save connect time. “Is he good for his money? Hit me.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


241 


"No parting words for your sister? Greta’s here. She says hello.” 

"“Hi right back. But as long as I’m paying business rates, what about 
this Hasday fellow?” 

A pause. "I’ve nothing against Hasday. He’s Lester Bragolio’s nanny 
and general factotum. Lester’s in a spot, he’s being kicked out — relieved of 
his directorship. Are they asking for transport? The new chap’s hired the 
Berrieh. Morse will be loading all day today. They’ll launch tomorrow. 
She’s a faster ship than yours. Over.” 

“Copy. I’ll beat her, no problem. Why didn’t somebody work this out a 
few days ago? I’m being hooked on the fly.” 

"Because some crazy woman was supposed to kill Morse. Shockleys play 
rough, worse than tubers. But I don’t think Hasday was involved in that. 
I can’t vouch for all Lester’s gang, but I’ve dealt with him, and he couldn’t 
be. And if he thought you were being brought into danger, he’d have to 
warn you. It’s simple ethics.” 

“And pay me something outrageous for the risk?” Yossi asked. 

"If they’ve offered an unexpectedly high fee, that might be a warning,” 
Randolph answered. "Pretty subtle, though. It’s more likely a symptom of 
Lester’s panic. Greta says to be careful. Over.” 

Wouldn’t Randolph like to know how high that fee was! Yossi grinned 
at this chance of a lifetime. “Tell her I’m only eating Greens, Yellows 
and Reds. You can’t get more careful than that. Over and out.” 

This last talk reminded Yossi that he was hungry. While the Tipsy 
Witch steered herself, he opened the keeper and pulled out a Yellow; 
good practical eating. 

This one was from a Y-71 bush; Taddeo doing chaos theory. He was a 
short, bald academician of heavy face and figure. Virtual reality bright- 
ened to show four fictoid students perched around him in chairs less 
padded than his, sipping tea and nibbling biscuits. 

They asked the right questions with the intelligent innocence of Lit 
majors who had wandered into the wrong room. The lesson made head- 
way as efficiently as a Platonic dialogue, slowing when Taddeo made a 
dumb joke to prove that teachers were human. 

Ironic, yes. Taddeo Tsimis had been a veg brain-nexus, genetically 
adapted to life on a comet. Notwithstanding how he imaged himself, he 
hadn’t been human for many lifetimes! 

Still, his blood ran hot. Chaos and fractals — this was rad stuff. Physics 
had purged itself, backing away from the repercussions of quantum the- 
ory, because the things people ended up saying sounded so nuts. Thanks 
to Yellow fruit these buried controversies were in the open again, no 
longer squelched by the orthodox elite. 

True, Yellow wasn’t as fun as some other colors, but nobody said you 
couldn’t eat a Red or Green for desert, and end up in some fantasy epic, 
clobbering ores or sneaking into a palace harem. 

And really being your own point-of-view hero had an improving effect. 
As a kid Yossi had been hateful and selfish, but Pavel’s tolerance and 
self-sacrifice got overlaid; Pavel of the Green fruit, a hero capable of 
courage and growth. 


242 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Green Pavel had character and Yossi benefited, and as far as his 
pinched and sour heart allowed, he was grateful. The people who wanted 
to censor fruit were half-right. They did make a difference, or what were 
they good for? And so he’d follow Pavel’s search for his girlfriend, while 
Red Antonia led the guy a merry chase on her half-assed quest for God. 
Yossi was willing to tag after, happy to find Pavel an honest skeptic. 

So far, his Green alter-ego had not fudged his way into piety. The 
fabled God-Fruit, where one or more of six seekers re-entered the Garden 
of Eden, remained unfound, its color contested. It couldn’t exist because 
God didn’t exist, however much seed hunters looked for undiscovered 
fruit bushes in the wilder regions of Mars. 

Eden was the goal of six colors, and six adventures; but it couldn’t 
exist, even if much of the planet’s economy was driven by this search for 
wonderful new seeds. Now Greta was part of that economy, heading off 
to run a trading post and haggle with snomos. 

What a state of things. But Yossi had lost his right to bitch, because 
the tables were turned. It was his new job to ferry a shockley somewhere 
eight days away, and that shockley had tried to arrange a murder — if 
Randolph said so, it must be true. Better to pal around with a hundred 
snomos than share quarters with someone like that! 

He’d do it anyhow. Three hundred thousand cash was utterly persua- 
sive. “Have I got a deal for you,” Yossi whispered, as if he were some 
non-existent God talking to a lean, curly-haired sailor on the Throxus of 
Mars: strange stuff to be at the center of a rapidly expanding financial 
universe. 

It was late the next day when the Tipsy Wifc/i jammed into the icepack 
skirting Gledhill Island and fired her anchors. Yossi radioed his arrival. 
He began pumping slush over the port side, and waited. 

A procession wove down through the local alam al-mithral, bundles 
visible through gaps in the ice maze. Yossi set his tiepatch to lOx and 
saw snomos; ape-brutes shambling under their heavy burdens. All well 
and good, but he wasn’t going anywhere until three hundred thousand 
cash was transferred and verified, so somewhere in that long parade had 
better be at least one norm — there! 

Yossi checked on his pumping operation, and was disappointed. The 
weather was too bright and warm for his slush to freeze into a high- 
mounding boarding ramp. All he’d created was a pedestal, flat and tan- 
nic, dirtier than the rest of the ice, as if the Witch had peed from a 
gigantic bladder. He’d have to winch people and goods aboard. 

The first of them filed out from the alam al-mithral onto the frozen sea- 
shelf. Yossi waved, and Hasday waved back. “Humph,” Yossi grunted, 
turning into the pilothouse. He’d had a social thought, the kind that 
came more commonly to norms: his passengers would like something hot 
to drink when they came aboard. He programmed the pots, and then 
went to limber out the winch. 

Hasday and his partner were the first to ride up and swing aboard. 

THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 243 


“This is Bai Shan,” said the norm, as the other fellow pulled down his 
snood. “We need to inspect your boat — your ship, and figure things out, 
okay?” 

“Hot caf in the pilothouse. Let’s begin there. There’s credit transfer to 
take care of.” Yossi looked at Bai Shan, a tanned tuber with a grim air 
about him. Bai stared back, nodded to Hasday and said “Go ahead.” 

How frugal. In two words Bai granted permission while excluding 
himself, and it looked like Hasday didn’t mind at all. The norm followed 
Yossi inside and warmed his hands on a cup. Yossi showed him the two 
bunks. “It’ll just be Doctor Bragolio and me and Bai Shan in here,” the 
norm said. “Four, counting you. Liv and Tubs would find it insufferably 
hot, and hot snomos get pretty rank.” 

“You’re bringing snomos?” Yossi asked. “They’ll get seasick outside. 
God, where can we put them?” 

“Bai’s working on that. You have an empty fish hold? Liv and Tubs can 
stay with our gear. It makes sense, since we’re using them as porters.” 

Yossi tried to imagine enduring the tossing seas in a closed dark hold, 
the stink offish all around him. Meanwhile Hasday spoke again. “Here’s 
my card. Gledhill Labs, priority account thirty-four dash one nine two.” 

A priority account! That meant hard UNETAO money. Priority ac- 
counts weren’t shilled on any vidnet. They tapped into the interplanetary 
financial system. The Martian micro-economy was walled off for protec- 
tion, with a one-way flow between hard and soft currencies. Yossi was 
delighted to soak in that flow. He radioed for a bank connect. The bank 
blinked to life, and a woman’s voice said “Cu mi helpas vin?” 

Oh, God. “Mi volas uh, transferi monojn . . .” (out of, out of) “. . . et tri 
kvar unu nau du, kaj — ” 

“Card, please?” 

Yossi slotted Hasday’s card, and then his own. The transaction pro- 
gressed to the next stage, and the next. He hard-copied each screen, and 
then they were done. 

Bai Shan entered the pilothouse, and shucked off his snood and coat. 
Undoubtedly the gun strapped to his torso was meant to impress Yossi. 
He poured some tea and turned around. “Send the signal.” 

Hasday didn’t zip up his coat. He just poked outdoors, and fired one of 
the Witch's flares as if he owned her. Yossi kept his mouth shut. Clearly 
the norm had noted where the flares were, and knew how to use them, 
a man of competence. But he persisted in acting like Bai Shan’s under- 
ling. That just didn’t make sense. 

After the flare spluttered and died in the blue-black sky, the crest of 
Gledhill Island erupted in a blast of flame and noise. A hopper shot into 
the thin Martian air, following a curved trajectory up and down again. 
The procession had long since clotted into a crowd of people and goods 
by the side of the ship. They watched the hopper land, ice hissing under 
its retros. 

The air rang with sudden silence. The cockpit opened and a single 
figure climbed out. “I’ll get the winch ready,” Hasday volunteered, zip- 
ping up this time before leaving the pilothouse. 


244 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


For the moment Yossi and Bai stood side by side. “I don’t get it,” Yossi 
said. “Hasday acts like your puppy-dog.” 

Bai smiled, but not with his eyes. “It’s like those cartoons. The Direc- 
tor’s got an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, pulling the 
opposite way. I’m the Director’s little devil. Poor angel Hasday can’t do 
anything about me, just set a good example. You notice there’s no norms 
around Gledhill? Except Hasday, of course.” 

“Yeah?” Yossi said to prompt Bai, who may have felt he’d said too 
much for a tough guy. “So — ” 

“That’s how the Director likes it. You a fruit eater?” 

How could Yossi lie, with his keeper full of evidence? “Yellow, Green, 
and Red.” 

“Yellow’s good. You’ll understand the Director better if you eat Yellow. 
I do Blue when I want kicks. All that other goody-goody shit isn’t real 
to me.” 

Blue Gisbornes. It was like confessing he was evil. Certainly it con- 
firmed Yossi’s suspicions. Someone took care of trying to assassinate the 
new Director. Who but Bai Shan? 

A minute later, Lester Bragolio swung aboard and accepted Hasday’s 
escort up to the pilothouse. Yossi bowed, but the shockley hurried by 
without loosening his weather-hood, through the galley to the bunks 
beyond. 

His rubbery face looked grim, which may not have meant anything. 
After a moment Bai Shan followed his boss. Meanwhile, Hasday turned 
back. He climbed down to the deck to winch up the next passengers, a 
pair of snomos, white and shaggy. 

Yossi was content to watch, until Hasday handed the winching opera- 
tion over to the snomos. The crowd below began loading the net, and 
Yossi grew nervous. He suited up, went outside, and bumped into Hasday 
coming the opposite way. “Uh, are they qualified — ?” 

“Sure. Liv Sjoberg and Tubs Najarian. Don’t sweat about them! It’s 
the rest of us who’ll give you headaches. Will we freeze in for the night 
if we take two hours to batten down?” 

“I doubt it,” Yossi answered. 

“Good. I’ll tell the Director. Sorry if he seems like a jerk, but he’s lost 
his job. I’m surprised he’s not catatonic.” 

During these words, Hasday somehow swung Yossi around. The cap- 
tain found himself re-entering the pilothouse. Now what? He double- 
checked the Tipsy Witch’s instrument readings, and watched the fuel 
gauge notch toward full. Okay, what next? Time ticked on oppressively. 

Director Lester Bragolio stepped out of seclusion, clad in tunic, 
breeches and slippers, hairbrush in hand. He spoke while combing his 
tousled white hair. “Would you bring up the navscreen, please? Ten 
degree radius?” 

The Tipsy Witch held faithful to Yossi’s voice. He said “Navscreen A, 
grid out from Gledhill, ten degree radius.” Only then did the monitor 
come to life. “False color, please,” Yossi instructed. His own “please” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


245 


meant “end of command.” Language changed when one talked to ma- 
chines. Spoken as the Director said it, the word almost signified: you are 
the same to me as some piece of equipment. 

Yossi shrugged off petty provocations. Paying customers could get 
away with anything, even “please” and “thank you.” He spoke again. 
“Alternate five seconds of depth contours with five seconds of water tem- 
peratures.” 

The screen showed ten meter intervals for the first map, and two degree 
intervals for the second. The shockley studied it and turned to Yossi. “If 
I touch where I want to be eight hours from now, can you draw the 
course?” 

Yossi nodded and watched his finger. “East.” He stepped up to the 
screen and drew a line. “Copy to command memory.” Without changing 
his tone he went on. “Eight days east will take us almost to Kepler.” 

“You know your ship’s speed better than I,” Director Bragolio — ex- 
director Bragolio — answered evasively. “We’ll be sailing an elaborate 
course; not one you’d think efficient.” 

What was this? Polite chit-chat with a shockley'? “It’s your choice, as 
long as you don’t risk the ship,” Yossi answered. 

Bragolio gave him a searching look. “We’ll be spending a long time 
together. Perhaps we’ll end up talking about . . . God? Would that come 
as a surprise?” 

“I’m no believer,” Yossi answered quickly, hoping to shut off this line 
of talk. The last thing he wanted to deal with was a shockley evange- 
list — -what a monster that would be! “You can’t prove God exists, or that 
he doesn’t. That makes it non-falsifiable. Somebody way back proved 
that non-falsifiable claims are meaningless.” 

“An excellent answer. Most tubers don’t care to labor in theological 
gardens, not even to justify their prejudices. Although they’ll happily 
use those prejudices to burn other tubers at the stake.” 

Yossi felt his face grow warm. “Some tubers acted that way, a long 
time ago. They were the ancestors of us all; snomos, shockleys, norms — ” 

“But they had defects. Captain Jardac, 7 have defects, too. I was made 
defective. Shockleys can’t plot together to take over the solar system, 
because we can’t stomach each other. We can’t stand to have equals. 
Each of us must be the tinhorn god of our own domain. If by the push of 
a button, I could eliminate all shockleys but myself, I wouldn’t hesitate. 

“Does that startle you?” he went on. “Imagine then, what it must do 
to an ego like mine, if I find myself drawn down a road that leaves me 
fewer and fewer choices. Imagine I’m obliged to extrapolate that God 
exists; a being not merely equal to myself, but vastly superior! A being 
for whom the entire universe is a memory device! 

“Well, you can’t imagine it in the least, but consider my predicament. 
I’m made as I am. The fact of God is intolerable to me. My brother is 
coming to take over the administration of Gledhill. I must be gone before 
he arrives. How maddening if your ship foundered, and we shared the 
same place for any length of time! But I have to share this universe 


246 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


with God. That’s more maddening still! God spying on me; knowing my 
intimate thoughts!” 

Yossi frowned. What a weird conversation! Maybe this was how shock- 
leys socialized: by spinning tirades. He hesitated to enter into the Direc- 
tor’s madness, even to ask the obvious question: “But what can you do 
about it?” 

Lester Bragolio clapped his hands once, to signify some finality. “Con- 
jure up a keyboard with ten keys. Now, picture a four-fingered hand, 
three of space and one of time. How many chords could you play? How 
many more, with your fingers differently arranged? 

“There are that many potential universes. I shall recognize the ones 
that don’t have a Gk)d. Perhaps opening the door will create such a uni- 
verse. Well, I’m not suicidal, so rest assured I’ll be at work a long time 
yet. But that’s what this relocation is about. Hasday has reported me to 
the powers-that-be on this supposedly open research planet. That’s his 
job, to cut my resources when I get too big for UNETAO’s ambitions. 
Thanks to Hasday, they’ve decided I mustn’t persist in my endeavors, 
and here we are.” 

“Yours is the last generation of mad scientists,” Hasday spoke. “There 
won’t be more. The geneticists tried to create beyond their competence. 
We’re all a lot humbler than we used to be.” 

“Ah, yes,” the shockley said. “That pathetic Luddite bleat. How I wish 
I could be rid of you.” He changed to a more matter-of-fact voice. “As for 
shifts; Captain Jardac, you and I should make one team, Bai and Hasday 
the other. There’ll be some overlap, of course. Does that meet with your 
approval?” 

“Sure.” If someone had to watch the ship while he slept, Yossi much 
preferred Hasday to anyone else. But for now he wanted this bizarre 
interview to be over. As quickly as possible he begged off to go outside 
and see what the snomos were up to. 

Liv was the female. Big as thumbs, her dug-nipples sagged into view, 
any other distinctions of shape muffled under her heavy fur. Making love 
to her would be like — Yossi recoiled, amazed the idea had occurred to 
him. She smiled while wrestling a crate toward the hold. The naked skin 
around her blue eyes and button nose was pink and cutely wrinkled, like 
a baby gorilla’s. “Hi, Skipper. Wanna help?” 

To his own surprise Yossi agreed. They steered the crate away from 
obstacles until Tubs reached to lower it down. Now what? Yossi found 
himself more curious than repelled: “How can you carry all this from 
wherever I put you off?” 

“Well hell, that’s a good question,” Tubs answered, his voice a basso 
rumble. “A damn good question. A marsokhod would be nice. I’m licensed 
for nuke vehicles up to three axles. Liv, what do you guess there’ll be a 
khod?” 

“Either that or the place we’re bound for ain’t far inland,” Liv guessed. 
“It’s not like anybody tells us these things.” She stretched the kinks out 
of her back. “I don’t suppose you can pipe radio into this part of the ship? 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


247 


Buddhist-Cajun bottleneck? Or Newfie sea chanties? We got tapes, but 
it’s sure nice when we can hear something new.” 

Yossi shook his head. “Usually it’s fish down there. I’ll bear it in mind 
for the next ship I get built for me. Glood meeting you, Liv. Call me 
Yossi.” 

Tubs leapt out of the hold. Even in Martian gravity it was quite a feat 
for someone two meters tall. He stuck out his paw — his hand. Yossi 
shook it, wondering how people who looked so weird could act so normal. 
“Maybe we’ll get together for meals? Where are you guys from, anyhow?” 

Liv shrugged. “Well, if you shoot due east from Eisenroth about sev- 
enty degrees, them’s our old stomping grounds. We’re doing this spot of 
work for the Director, and then we’re heading back up there. We’ve seen 
enough of Mars. It’s time we settled down, huh. Tubs?” 

“You bet. Farming and fruit-prospecting. Beats working for 
Shockleys.” 

Yossi grinned, feeling a rapport he could scarcely believe — rapport 
with these monsters! “Excuse me for bringing this up, but I just got an 
earful about God. I was wondering if you’d know about any special 
fruit — I mean, you must know about the legends, God-Fruit and all? I 
thought maybe the Director ate something?” And if he did, you’re the 
ones who brought it to him. 

Tubs’s smile dropped away. “Now what lies should we tell Cap’n Yossi, 
Liv? And us not good liars in the least?” 

“People get so fussed up when snomos pretend we’ve found something,” 
Liv answered. “Honestly, it’s a shame to lead them on.” 

“But denying it — that never works, dear. It’s hopeless.” He turned and 
spat over the rail. 

“You said it. Tubs.” Liv shook her shaggy head. 

“People like to believe we got secrets,” Tubs went on. “They pester us, 
and tempt us with empty baubles. Look at poor Uncle Ivar and what 
happened when he popped up with bush R-172! We make the finds, and 
sure as sin some little shit of a norm or a tuber gets rich, setting up 
greenhouses and hotmouthing how wonderful it is.” 

Tubs swung his attention to their host. “Anyhow, Cap’n Yossi, you’ve 
touched a sore spot. If you’re looking for God, you’re better off going to 
church like everyone else.” 

“Snomos go to church?” Yossi persisted. 

Liv spread her paws. “What should I do with him. Tubs? I don’t think 
we’re working him hard enough. All this talk, and the Director in a 
hurry and everything.” 

The rebuke made Yossi worry. Had he undone the good work of these 
last minutes of civility? These two didn’t have to know he was a misan- 
thrope. For a moment they’d accepted him, and Yossi wanted that mo- 
ment to continue. “Pardon me. Sorry if I, uh, said something stupid,” he 
apologized. “Do you really need help? I could fetch Hasday.” 

“Nah, but we can’t chat right now,” Tubs spoke as he followed Liv to 
the winch. 


248 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


-4/16 Braho 7- 


With her hour in court fresh in memory, Arundhati woke to fleshly 
life, and blinked. The fog hazing her vision refused to go away. She was 
nearsighted; a tuber defect she’d be saddled with for the rest of this 
lifetime. 

She stood and sat again, working her pelvis, pumping her lungs, wig- 
gling her fingers. She felt — heavy. Too weak for her weight. Lisbet was 
in sad shape, something Arundhati meant to fix. But for now she focused 
on the chaplain, who put her through a brief set of tests. 

“You’re no stultado,” the chaplain grinned afterward. “922 verbal, 781 
math. That’s well within norm range.” 

“Thanks. What about my job? What about Morse?” 

“Try on this tiepatch. There’s a message.” 

Meeting 1500 sublevel 3, Concourse R room 112. “What time is it?” 
Arundhati almost asked, before she thought to tap up her chron-screen: 
4/16 B7 12:35. 

As if she might forget it was the sixteenth year of the fourth intercom- 
etary! But being new to Mars, she was glad to be reminded it was Braho, 
seven days down and forty-two to go before C-for-Cerenko, third of four- 
teen months. It was like that old folk song; “ ’Twas the forty-third of 
May / that our Willie passed away. / He died harder than he ever died 
before . . .” 

Except this time she was poor Willie. Again she looked around, pleased 
that this little room had a big view. Fournier Arcopolis was a domed hole 
in the ground, offices and shops in circles around a garden atrium. They 
all had big picture windows to tempt her curiosity. 

No money. Another damn it. “My plastic won’t work with my new 
thumbprint.” 

Her chaplain nodded. “You’ll get an updated card. Uh, if you’re 
hungry—” 

“I’m starving. I’ve never felt so hollow before.” Arundhati tried to 
smooth out her waist, but it wasn’t just these stupid clothes that were 
foldy and convoluted, it was her. 

‘This is sublevel two. There’s a deli straight up. Here, take this.” 

“Cash?” Arundhati asked, looking at the proffered paper. “I can’t take 
it from you. If you fork charity over to every new resurrectee, you’ll go 
broke in this job.” 

The chaplain shrugged. “You sound like my husband. You’re right, 
but I’m building zalatwic. Now don’t forget that meeting.” 

“At least you can eat with me,” Arundhati suggested. She moved 
around the desk. “God, these thighs! I feel shock waves with every step. 
No muscle at all.” 

“Please, don’t be vulgar. This isn’t a planet for muskolegistoj . We’re 
softies and we like to pretend there’s nothing wrong with us. We measure 
strength by not noticing the temperature, and not needing our airsnoods 
very much.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


249 


“I’m sorry,” Arundhati apologized. “Look, I’m bitchy, but it’s not your 
fault. I’m really a very nice person. Anyhow I used to be. Hell, I’m a 
tuber now — do you suppose it’s my destiny to whine like this?” 

The chaplain didn’t laugh. “Us norms shine with a bright light, so in 
contrast tubers seem shadowy. But if you took tubers by themselves, 
you’d find as much good as evil. We’ve done wrong by hogging all the 
virtue. It makes them neurotic. But you shouldn’t have that problem, 
coming into this fiesh as an adult.” 

Arundhati blushed. Tubers and norms. Of all the 'us’es and 'them’s in 
the universe, what the hell am I anymore'? “How long since Lisbet had a 
bath and change of clothes?” 

“She wore prison issue this last week. A shower every morning. These 
were laundered in the meantime. You won’t be offensive.” The chaplain 
chewed her lip thoughtfully. “If I were meeting important people in that 
body. I’d go for an empire-style dress. High waist, silky with pleats — do 
you mind if we visit a shop after your lunch? I feel like a kid. You can 
be my fashion doll, and the owner of LaVerne’s owes me a big one.” 

“I can’t tell you how grateful I’d be,” Arundhati answered. “This isn’t 
my style at all.” 

Tastefully dressed and with the edge off her hunger, at fifteen hundred 
Arundhati waved goodbye to the chaplain. She slipped from a crowded 
concourse into a darkened room. The chamber was long and functional. 
Most of the seats were taken; the table that dominated this space had a 
place marked for her. 

“Am I late?” she asked the woman in front of the display screen, whose 
look of intensity must mean something, perhaps disapproval. Characters 
in operas stared like that, and fell in love, or murdered each other. 

“No. Welcome. I see you’ve got a tiepatch. Please put it on.” The 
woman’s black face was haloed by frizzy red-blond hair; she was a Minoan 
goddess painted in the wrong colors. Her face could be beautiful if the 
spirit was right, beautiful in expression, beautiful if she had a lively soul 
inside. For the moment Arundhati reserved judgment. 

“Please put it on,” the woman repeated, reminding Arundhati that she 
hadn’t done so. She blushed and complied. A dime was already seated to 
her right. He smiled through his beard; a toddler-size adult. Or perhaps 
it was a leer. In Martian gravity Arundhati’s large breasts didn’t sag at 
all. 

‘Tap up screen one. It’ll help introduce me,” the norm woman said. 
“Mars has three pancajatoj; one each for snomos, norms, and dimes. 
The norm pancajato works with UNETAO to select nine members to a 
Planetary Management Committee, an executive force in Martian af- 
fairs. Most of the directors on several crucial boards are assigned by the 
PMC.” 

Arundhati’s screen one showed an administrative flow chart. She 
frowned at its tangles. Meanwhile the woman spoke on: “One of these 
nine managers is the Honorable Randolph Mbika, the person I report to. 


250 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


“My name is Greta Jardac. The population of Mars is too small to let 
us afford a secret service, but we’re here today to launch a mission. Each 
of you is trusted to have the prudence and bold spirit we’re looking for. 
What’s at stake is the future of this planet; will it be a terraformed 
colony, or a cloud of hot plasma? Vlad, what do you think?” 

The bearded dime stood on his chair and bowed. “I’m Vladmiro Bal- 
asov. Two hundred thousand dimes on Mars. More than twice the number 
of norms. To us, this PMC is a conspiracy for aristocratic rule during 
future intercometaries. 

“We dimes prefer open debates, open elections. I’m the chair of the 
Conservatives, and my friends just got trounced at the polls. All this 
might have happened on a different world, for all the difference it makes 
to you giants, but it’s Mars just the same. No mad shockley’s going to 
take it away from us.” 

“The mad shockley being Lester Bragolio, not Morse,” Greta explained 
to the room. 

Arundhati nodded: “Morse figured his brother was up to something.” 
You’re my connection to his fears, she thought, and to all that’s left of my 
former life. She felt profound relief This meeting means I won’t be 
stranded in Fournier! I’m no orphan. 

“He’s up to something indeed, with the help of Bai Shan, and against 
the opposition of Hasday Ghazzabi,” Greta agreed. “Remember those 
names, if only because they stand for such different things. My own 
brother is busy ferrying Lester to his fallback location.” 

Greta windowed Yossi Jardac’s statistics onto quad four of tiepatch 
screen one. “I hope to enlist Yossi when he gets back. He’ll have crucial 
views. As for the rest of us, we have a base to work out of Nominally it’s 
a trading post. I’ll be there as communications link. Arundhati, you — ” 

“I might be interested,” she interrupted. “I was G18 on Earth. What’s 
the pay for this?” 

“If I take you as a trading post clerk, it’ll be GIO, with a bonus when 
we’ve accomplished our mission. You know, 6u ne, that there’s only fifty 
G18’s on Mars? I’m just a 16 myself” 

“Then I’ve lost my place with Morse,” Arundhati said. 

“That’s one of the drawbacks of dying. The Civil Service code doesn’t 
oblige UNETAO-funded employers to — well, if it did, the government 
might be stuck with some people forever. The very worst people! So 
unfortunately you need court sanction to reinstate your job status. In 
this case, a suit might drag on for years.” 

Greta smiled as if her notes read: smile here. Arundhati liked her 
better for it; people who said unpleasant things should have the grace to 
be nervous. She hurried on. “We’d favor that. We want you to seem 
desperate enough to take a GIO job. Meanwhile you’ve got a grievance 
against the Martian establishment. You might bitch to the media about 
norm prejudices against tubers. See, there’s that tuber named Bai Shan 
I mentioned earlier.” 

Greta paused. “Forgive my crudeness, but he really goes for that body 

THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 251 


you’re in. He’s Lester’s goon and he likes zoftig women. Having you 
play along might be helpful. Bai won’t know you’re trained as a science 
monitor and he might let you see things he wouldn’t reveal under other 
circumstances.” 

“You know where all this is taking place,” Vlad said. “You’ve got a 
trading post. You know where Lester is going.” 

“Yes. Tap up screen two, please.” Greta’s eyes changed focus as she 
consulted notes visible to her alone. “Our spot is almost certainly be- 
tween thirty and fifty degrees south, and two-twenty to two-forty degrees 
of longitude. 

“This is dull old Martian cratered terrain, on the fringes of snomo 
country. Those dots on your screen are several ruins from the second and 
third intercometaries, including the wreck of the Carthoris. They show 
as blips to our surveillance satellites, because we can see heat, metal, 
and unusual contours from space. 

“Lester’s facility, if it exists as more than a blueprint, is either dug in 
or masquerading as a ruin. Enough money has vanished from his ac- 
counts to pay for something forty times bigger than your average work- 
shop, and if that’s still laughably small . . .” 

Greta shrugged. “That’s only the money we’ve noticed. One more 
thought. Snomos may be camped nearby. Lester’s employed snomos in 
the past. They probably have no idea of the dangers of his work.” 

“What are the dangers of his work?” asked one of the dimes, an hour- 
glass-shaped female. 

“He’s trying to open an inter-dimensional door, a gate to other uni- 
verses,” Greta answered. “Potential universes exist in an equilibrium 
that would be disturbed by any such attempt. The result might be a Big 
Bang. If our universe shares dimensions with that Big Bang, energy 
would slice across. That slice would be the width of cosmic ‘string,’ ten 
to the minus twenty-seven centimeters, and I’d not want to share Mars 
with cosmic string at several billion degrees. I’d prefer not even sharing 
the galaxy with those forces.” 

'“So is Lester suicidal?” Vlad asked. “If there’s so much at risk — ” 

“Mars is an open research planet, and Lester’s bred to do science. From 
Lester’s view our side represents ignorance and bad faith, and he’d ask 
why we’re so nasty, when in fact we’re nice and polite, and very careful. 
Let me emphasize that.” Greta turned from face to face. “Look everybody, 
we could land security patrols. They could wander around shooting 
things up, but until we know how far Lester’s work has taken him, we 
don’t dare do that. We’ve got a norm on the inside named Hasday Ghaz- 
zabi. He’ll tell us when it’s safe to shut Lester down.” 

“Meanwhile — ?” 

“Meanwhile, it won’t seem odd if a bunch of election-losing dimes go 
off to found their own Dimetown, far from Fournier and other hotbeds of 
radicalism. You’d have good reason to show up at the trading post, hire 
guides, and hike around. That’s our cover. And Arundhati might go with 
you.” 


252 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Vlad twiddled his beard. “To make this credible the bank will have to 
free up construction loans for a new Dimetown. We’d like that money 
not to vanish when this mission is done.” 

“We’ll work on getting some promises,” Greta said. “Arundhati, are 
you in?” 

“As sex bait? A treat for Bai Shan? I’d like to check out your attitude 
about tubers. This tuber brother of yours. He doesn’t know about any of 
this?” 

Greta grimaced. “Yossi’s a crummy liar. If I’d told him we fiddled 
events so he could do what he’s doing, he’d let it out somehow. He’d play 
for advantage and get squashed flat. I don’t feel good about keeping him 
ignorant, believe me. It’s a rotten deal, and I intend to make it up to 
him.” 

“But what can he do that’s worth the risk?” Arundhati asked. 

“Our satellites have lost the Tipsy Witch,” Greta answered. “We think 
they’ve sprayed the ship so it reflects as ice. We could do a heat trace, 
except — Arundhati, what do you know about the first intercometary?” 

Arundhati sighed: “Mars 1/1 was the same as Earth year 2094 — ” 

“Way back then they put big mirrors in orbit to warm the planet’s 
surface,” Greta elaborated. “They focus the solar flux down in patterns 
to keep the Boreal and Throxus oceans from freezing completely. We 
can’t trace the wake of a ship that follows those zigzags, so for all pur- 
poses Yossi’s lost. When he comes back, he’ll tell us where he’s been. We 
might need a ship on our mission. He can help there, too.” 

“If I joined you I wouldn’t want to be manipulated because of any 
supposed tuber defects,” Arundhati said. “Or kept in tactical ignorance.” 

“You won’t be,” Greta promised. 

All Arundhati’s ambitions had come to this! “Then I’ll take the job. 
These guys killed me, after all. If I hang around Fournier I’ll just run 
into old pals of Lisbet’s. That could get embarrassing, given how she 
was.” 

“Crazy, you mean?” Greta asked. 

“How can I persuade people I’m not her, when they’re used to Lisbet 
lying so much?” Arundhati asked. “I just had a shop clerk tell me all 
about my former self! Lisbet wanted fame, and she’s notorious, all right. 
She used to shoplift. What’s she up to? You ought to interrogate her.” 

Greta opened her briefcase and stuck her notes inside. She looked up. 
“She’s a bug now. Bugs can’t be insane. It’s not in the software. Except 
lots of times the change throws them into a shutdown fugue. On Mars 
we send our dead to the big bug monastery on Olympus Mons. She’s 
probably out of the picture for the rest of the fourth intercometary.” 

“If there is a rest of this fourth intercometary,” Vlad added darkly. 


-4/16 Braho 8- 

A mirror-reflected sun shone bright in the night sky as the Tipsy Witch 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


253 


crashed through offshore ice, the ship hoary and bearded with white. 
Yossi sat with his hands curled around a hot cup of caf, silent in his fury, 
glaring at Bai Shan. 

Bai Shan had wanted to disable the Tipsy Witch’s radios, and was only 
forced into concessions by Yossi’s threat to turn back for Eisenroth Dock. 
Thank Clod the ship obeyed Yossi’s voice alone, or there’d quite possibly 
be a mutiny. His body would be easy to discard; just toss it overboard. 

Bai stood only a meter away at the screen displays, keeping vigil and 
toying with map scales, using the keyboard to tweak the color contrast. 
He was unruffled, his mood unguessable, as if to taunt Yossi with his 
superior emotional control. 

Hell yes, a man who ate Blues would have great emotional control, 
because he’d be dead to a lot of feelings that made life worth living. Why 
envy Bai that? 

Hasday should have taken Yossi’s side, instead of working a technical 
fix so the radio could re-start after an interval of time. What a stultado! 
Hasday’s head worked oddly. Whatever the war between A and B, the 
norm angled across no-man’s-land in direction C. Sometimes he became 
everyone’s target. 

Right now Hasday was bringing a late supper to Liv and Tubs, braving 
the remnant surge of these ice-tempered seas. The T-shaped floor of 
the pilothouse/galley was part of a gimbals-riding sphere that included 
indoor storage and equipment. If the windows hadn’t been iced and use- 
less, it would have been possible to swing the whole thing rearward, just 
to keep a watchful eye on the norm’s difficult trip to the fish-hold. 

Instead, Bai and Yossi looked at a display. Suddenly the monitor went 
dead. “Damn,” Bai swore, tapping a few more keys before giving up. He 
reached for his outdoor top-and-bottoms. “Would you mind taking the 
com for a bit?” 

Yossi looked back into the galley. The ex-director was apparently 
asleep behind the far curtains. He forced an answer. “Fine.” 

Half a minute later the odious Bai was out the door. Yossi tapped wet 
keys and felt around the display. Caf was mildly acidic. It could be spiked. 
Bai might have “accidentally” spilled some of his drink . . . 

Yossi pulled out the keyboard. He looked for a substitute input device. 
With a grimace, he plugged in a mouse. Now how do you get a mouse to 
go Alt-FlO? You invoke a menu you can’t see, and click blindly. 

The screen came alive. Yossi cleared it and windowed back to the stern 
camera. Bai stood by the winch housing, holding his gun, gesturing 
violently as Hasday moved toward him, arms out in a “let’s be reason- 
able” posture. Yossi saw two flashes of brief color. Hasday folded in on 
himself, trailed by ghost images of his collapse. 

Yossi stared wide-eyed. After some moments the tuber nudged Hasday 
with his boot. Bai bolstered his pistol and began the cumbersome busi- 
ness of tumbling the corpse overboard. 

It was too late to push RECORD. Yossi cast around and saw the key- 
board. Again he pulled up the virtual key menu and moused Alt-FlO, 


254 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


blinding the display. He unplugged the mouse and stuck the sabotaged 
keyboard back into place. Then he sat down, hoping to control his pound- 
ing heart. 

Shouldn’t I have some weapons in here? Yossi wondered, trying to size 
up his flare-guns, his kitchen knives — 

The pilothouse door opened and he rose in panic. “There’s no sign of 
Hasday,” Bai said, pulling down his snood. “It’s more than possible he 
was swept overboard.” 

The Throxus Ocean was three minute water. Only a snomo could sur- 
vive the cold longer than that. Yossi tried to say “then he’s dead.” His 
role was to suggest a search, however futile. He readied to speak, but 
Bai cut him off: “It’s no use hunting for the body. We can’t bring his flesh 
back to life, and you don’t have memory equipment.” 

“You killed him,” Yossi blurted at last. His fear gave way to something 
light-headed. Either this was courage, or he was on the verge of fainting. 

“That’s a lie. It was an accident.” Bai spoke without the passion such 
words demanded. 

“We’re going back to Eisenroth. I’ll tell them what I saw.” 

“It would be inconvenient to kill you and disable your ship,” Bai an- 
swered. “We’re close to our goal, but it would add a twenty-klom hike 
across the ice to our difficult trek. The fact is. I’d rather not kill you at 
all. I’d like you to see things a new way. You could be useful.” 

Bai paused and then went on. “Let’s talk about your three hundred 
thousand cash. When that was paid to your account, a performance bond 
was issued. You can’t spend money for the eight days of our contract in 
case we end up dissatisfied. 

“Now get this: we have lawyers back in Fournier. While we’ve been at 
sea, they’ve gone to court to keep your money frozen for a period of time — 
three hundred sixty-five days. Do you remember what that is?” 

Yossi shook his head, stupefied by all that was happening. 

“It’s the length of an Earth year, and it shows how archaic these laws 
are we’re working with. The point is, we’re going to sue for our money 
back. That’s what our people told the judge. Only we won’t sue if you 
keep your mouth shut. Stay quiet and that hunk of cash is yours in three 
hundred and sixty-five days, plus a fifteen percent penalty. 

“I’m depending on your greed. I’d hate for you to fail me. It’s not just 
lawyers working for us. Our other pals are even nastier. We’re talking 
patriots: zealots for Martian self-rule versus UNETAO colonialism. A 
man with a ship and fish to catch can’t hide from that gang very long.” 

Yossi nodded, his mouth dry. He couldn’t think of anything to say. Bai 
seemed familiar with this effect, as if he’d induced it many times before. 

“Here’s your program,” he said. “In another two hours we anchor and 
begin debarking. Do nothing until we’re off out of sight. Then you’re free 
to break out of here. Make no use of your radio until you’re inside Hellas 
Bay. Even then contact Eisenroth only for routine purposes. After you 
reach shore, make no attempt to charge us with any crimes. It’s very 
simple.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


255 


With that said, Bai began brewing a new pot of caf. Yossi managed a 
response: “But why Hasday? Why tonight?” 

“Hasday was a pain in the ass. He was a norm spy we had to live with, 
and for the sake of Gledhill we did. That’s all I can tell you, but it’s 
obvious we aren’t in Gledhill anymore. Too much curiosity is dangerous. 
Go eat a Green or something.” 

Lashed by Bai’s dismissal, Yossi moved to the far corner of the pilot- . 
house. One of the screens showed a map, and he stared at an undistin- 
guished shoreline. Bai couldn’t rob him of his log, or his memories. 

And three hundred thousand cash or not, Bai couldn’t keep him from 
reporting Hasday’s murder when he got back to Eisenroth Dock! 


-4/16 Braho 10- 

MarsBelt Railway stretched along the equator more than a hundred 
ninety degrees. Fournier was well east of midpoint, where the line curved 
south to avoid the molten sea of Isidis. 

All the good seats on Arundhati’s train were on the side facing comet- 
shattered terrain. She worried that the car would tilt from the weight of 
bodies pressed to the windows, watching the show. 

But most of those bodies were dimes, and it would take three, maybe 
four dimes to equal one tuber like her. The train showed no sign of 
tipping over, so she shrugged off her fears and enjoyed the sight of gey- 
sers sputtering under thunderheads of smoke, with now and again the 
flash of lightning. 

By late afternoon Isidis lay behind. The train whizzed through squares 
of field and mid-growth forest, passing farmstead clusters every five 
kloms. Rain pattered down at random intervals. Rain should never get 
boring on the “desert planet” of Mars, but once the myth died for her, 
Arundhati tapped into the train’s tiepatch library. 

Time passed. Arundhati’s hunger became fierce. This body’s new owner 
was used to Earth-size meals, and it was hard to make the shift. By 
lengthening the Martian minute, there were exactly twenty-four hours 
in the local day: the adjustment was slight, but it put Arundhati off in 
her reckoning. She always expected it to be later than it was. Late 
enough for supper. 

At last the noodle-woman came trundling through. Arundhati bought 
a bowl of soup and a bun. Her companions snuck glances as she ate. 
She read their minds: "Huge woman puts on another load.” Dimes were 
censorious of waste. They objected to giants on principle, but sin has its 
charms. She knew she was the object of any number of wicked male 
fantasies. 

Those fantasies made her desirable, and now Vlad returned from some 
errand to take possession of her; he was a halfway competent charmer, 
good enough for a small planet, and on a small planet he might never 
be disabused of his exaggerated self- views. Arundhati found him tedious. 


256 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


but she was trained not to dislike people far worse that Vlad: shockleys 
like Morse, for one. 

He climbed into the facing seat, sat heavily, and puffed: “Marsupials!” 
Of course she’d have to ask what he meant. She could hold off coldly, but 
not if they were to work together these next weeks. 

So she raised an eyebrow. “You said — ?” 

His eyes twinkled. “They used to be the big faction among the radicals. 
If dime women were endowed with marsupial pockets, they could bear 
very premature babies. That’s good, because we’ve got size problems with 
the birth canal. You don’t see dime geniuses because our heads have to 
be small, but wait until the fifth intercometary!” 

Vlad lowered his voice. “ — ^This is all their propaganda, but women 
have conservative aspects. They don’t want alewife hips, but think of 
this pocket across your front! Imagine it stretching with the weight of a 
child, losing tone and flapping like an empty sack!” 

Arundhati wrinkled her nose at the idea. “Let men carry the babies.” 

Vlad smiled. “The human race is infinitely improvable,” he continued 
mockingly. “But the big marsupialist catchword is ‘maternal bonding,’ 
which gets us men off the hook.” 

“I take it they’re not a serious faction anymore?” Arundhati asked. 

Vlad nodded. “Our progressives have come up with something better. 
What if women deliver after two months, and give birth to pockets with 
the fetus inside? Then they send the whole womblet off to the incubator! 
No ruined figures, no fuss.” 

“No need for breasts,” Arundhati pointed out, but Vlad shook his head. 
“Breasts stay. For the hatchlings, and for a sexual cue. Oviparosity has 
lots of advantages. The radical bloc has swung behind it. I think they’re 
nuts. Technology isn’t ready for that big a change to the human species. 
But all they see is a crop of huge-headed kids, smart as norms and 
perfectly adapted for Mars, where it doesn’t take a lot of muscle to hold 
up a lot of brains.” 

“Couldn’t your conservatives found their own Dimetown, and go your 
own way?” 

Vlad pursed his lips. “But I might need to build a coalition with the 
diehard marsupialists, just to populate the place. In a century we’ll be a 
freak show.” 

Arundhati frowned. “Your conservative dimes add up to 30 percent of 
two hundred thousand voters — ” 

“That’s last month. We’re 20 percent now, if we’re lucky. See, someone 
pointed out that if you have a municipal incubator with monthly fees, 
poor people might not manage repeated installments of two hundred 
cash, so conservative nightmares about multiplying welfare hordes van- 
ish into thin air. Meanwhile large families squander large fortunes, so 
you’ve got built-in wealth equity! It sounds great, if I didn’t doubt the 
whole premise on technical grounds.” 

Arundhati sagged forward and rested her chin on fist. “I’m on Mars, 
talking to a bearded munchkin about the wonders of egg-laying women. 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


257 


chasing after some mad scientist, and worried about alternate universes! 
When did I stop being real, and turn into a grade-B video?” 

“You looked at that file on Bai Shan?” Vlad asked. 

Arundhati tapped her tiepatch. “A grade-B villain to make my day 
complete. I thought I knew Singapore; but this stuff about Bai fighting 
for the Queen of Heaven — I haven’t the foggiest. Martial arts? / knew 
some tricks in my former body, but I wouldn’t take him on in this one. 
Bai eats Blue. Maybe that means it’s my job to eat Blue, too.” 

Vlad tugged his beard in solemn sympathy. “Blue Gisborne was per- 
verse. He chose pain over happiness, ugliness over beauty. I don’t envy 
you his nightmare adventures.” 

What could she say to that? Arundhati turned to the window. The 
farms here were less rich: The trees grew scantier and farther apart in 
the woodlots. Now and again she saw rows of silver-green shrubs bearing 
fruit as marked; Y-24, G-108, R-41. None were Blue Gisbornes. Blues 
were almost contraband, nurtured by fanatics in places more hidden 
than this was. 

Enlightenment hit her: Blue eaters were a conspiracy, a league, a 
hidden network. To ensure supplies of fruit, they treasured their con- 
tacts. If Bai Shan settled anywhere for more than a couple of weeks, the 
news would ripple out through the fannish underground. 

Joining that underground would give her a new identity. Arundhati 
smiled in relief, no longer Greta Jardac’s inert bait. Here was something 
she could do on her own hustle, beginning at Escalante Station, and 
continuing south into the old crater country that was their final desti- 
nation. 


-4/16 Braho 13- 

A long week later the Berrieh sat at her usual mooring as the Tipsy 
Witch rounded into the sheltered migalik-'N aters of Eisenroth Dock. The 
large ship blocked Yossi’s view. It was frustrating, because he was curi- 
ous to see what reception awaited him after six days of noisy Bai Shan 
bashing. 

Mars didn’t exactly have police, not with a genetically groomed popula- 
tion smaller than . . . well, smaller than places on Earth that were fa- 
mous for their emptiness. True, there were court bailiffs and security 
marshals, but that was it. 

So it wouldn’t be like the videos, hard-bitten detectives hauling him 
off for questioning. Even so, Yossi found Randolph’s recent radio call 
bizarre. The norm lived in a universe where his evening parties took 
first place over everything. 

"Believe me, you’re a major draw!’’ He’d have someone on the dock for 
him, because Randolph hoped to whisk Yossi off, no matter that he was 
being a pest on every emergency frequency in the Southern Hemisphere, 
talking repeatedly of Hasday Ghazzabi’s murder. 


258 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Yossi was expected to keep different parts of his life on different 
shelves, and this Bai Shan business had little to do with Randolph’s own 
fixations; politics and architecture and private entertainment. 

So it seemed. Sure enough, only two figures stood at the Witch’s slot, 
with two other watchers parked farther back along the dock. Yossi had 
a sobering thought. Assassins? 

Randolph pulled down his snood and waved reassuringly. Y ossi tooted 
back, and fired his anchors. He began initiating shutdown, perhaps a 
longer-than-usual shutdown for his dear little ship. That meant, he had 
to be extra thorough. Five minutes passed before he debarked. During 
that time, a single-axle khod somehow appeared, Randolph at the wheel. 
“Come on up!” he shouted. 

Yossi climbed into the companion seat and they lurched off for Drumlin 
Avenue. Randolph pulled down the weather bubble. “No one can hear 
us,” he began. “Jesus God, Yossi! All that Bai Shan noise?” 

“I got tired of following his script like a nice boy,” Yossi answered. “He 
had me by the balls, three hundred thousand cash worth of balls. Let 
him sue! If I waited to get back here before reporting the crime, people 
would wonder if that delay made me part of his scheme.” 

“Fm trying very hard to keep cool,” Randolph admitted, speaking in a 
tightly controlled voice. “Yossi, what you did is going to make Lester 
and Bai go deeply to ground. They’ll be all the harder to dig out. 

“Look, you didn’t know, but Greta and I spent months contriving a 
trap for those two. We were subtle as hell! We’ve got a troop of dimes 
scouting east with a nice cover story, but those chaps will suspect any 
cover story from now on! And we’ve got to send security in. It won’t seem 
plausible to ignore the things you said. They’ll be suspicious if there isn’t 
a hunt.” 

“What — what?” Yossi stammered. “So what’s wrong with that? How 
can they stay hid? Okay, and why didn’t you tell me any of this before I 
risked my ship? I sure as hell gave you every chance in the world.” 

Drumlin Avenue tilted up past Eisenroth Chapterhouse and crested 
Radio Ridge. Here it branched. Ahead lay the Dimetown Ring, and a 
scattering of multiplex and light-industrial igloos. 

Randolph’s towerblock was visible in the distance, skirted by the 
greenhoused hectares of Bachman’s Farms. The norm wheeled to the 
right. “I’m telling you now. Lester’s up to something dangerous. We don’t 
want to press him into taking risks. Back to the wall, finger on the 
button, that kind of thing. Yossi, I’m sorry Hasday’s dead. You don’t 
know how sorry! He was supposed to tell us if there was a button. Now 
our one chance is to get someone on the inside. But you didn’t know any 
of this, and Greta was working behind your back, so we owe you a ton 
of apologies. Goddammit.” 

“Goddammit” meant: it isn’t fair to make you the object of my anger, 
but I’m still angry. “Lester’s not playing with a full deck,” Yossi an- 
swered, keeping a grip on his own anger. “He’s talked himself into these 
weird ideas about God. I’ll tell you the details, but first explain what 
Greta’s up to. Is she in danger?” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


259 


The khod picked up speed on the downhill slope. “She’s got your last 
name. That makes her useless,” Randolph answered, wrestling the 
wheel. “In Bai Shan’s brain, ‘Jardac’ glows like blinking neon, thanks to 
your noise. We’ve got to depend on a woman named Arundhati. She’s 
our bait, and all for a GIO salary.” 

Yossi felt protective and in need of protection. He toyed with the idea of 
joining his sister. Patriot-assassins lived in cities, not in pioneer country. 
“Greta said I might visit her trading post,” he said. “You’d arrange it.” 

“I don’t know what good that would do. Another untrained warm body.” 

“But useful. I’ve met Liv Sjoberg and Tubs Najarian. They’re two 
snomos on Lester’s team. Bai might tell them he’s got nothing to do with 
any murders, but I could swing them over.” 

"Apenau praktika,” Randolph muttered cryptically, as the khod trun- 
dled by Dimetown and started uphill. He spoke on: “Oh, about your 
money, I can override that performance bond. It’s yours to spend. That’s 
the least Greta and I can do to pay back the zalatwic we owe you.” 

A surge of gratitude smothered Yossi’s anger, but he persisted. “Send 
me east. It’s the best place I can go. You have a limited attention span, 
limited resources. How else can I stay in the picture? With bodyguards 
too, because I’ll be with your security team, the ones you don’t want to 
press Lester too hard. I’ll make sure we don’t. I’ll breathe fake fire and 
always launch off in the wrong direction.” 

The tower lay dead ahead. Randolph flipped his hood to uncover his 
bushy black hair. “Maybe that’s a good idea. Give me time to think. And 
tell me more about Lester’s God. No, let’s make that party talk. Shower 
and I’ll lend you a caftan. We expect forty guests. Some are probably on 
Lester’s side.” 

“Then my life’s worth squat.” Yossi lowered his voice as the khod 
decelerated and stopped. “Bai Shan — ” 

“Not tonight. The suite has one guarded exit, and there’s a columbar- 
ium in the building. To kill you is just an elaborate way for the killer to 
forfeit his own flesh, because he can’t get away. And for what? Revenge?” 

“Poison’s hard to trace.” 

“Yes,” Randolph agreed. “You know I’ve become an expert at dealing 
with death-threats? It goes with being a politician of a loathsome type, 
one who co-operates with UNETAO. 'Mars first and Mars alone,’ as if 
life here was self-sustaining without help from space! My answer is Mars 
first, yes. But never alone. Once we give way to patriots and kick out 
UNETAO we’ll have dimes versus snomos, dimes versus dimes. Blue 
fans versus White, Esperantists versus English-speakers . . .” 

Randolph trailed off. “Sorry for the diatribe. You pushed one of my 
buttons, but I’m taking you seriously. Poison, yes. Eat no food close at 
hand, nothing offered by a stranger. I’ll make your drinks.” Randolph 
pushed up the bubble. “What happens to the Tipsy Witch if you go east?” 

“I’ll hire someone from the guild. I’ll need employees if the bank and 
I are going to start a fishing fleet,” Yossi answered. “It’s time to lay a 
new keel. Especially if my money’s free.” 


260 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Randolph’s face lit up. “That’s something else we can talk about to- 
night.” He hopped to the ground. Yossi followed. They hurried into Ran- 
dolph’s building through the loading dock. 

The party suite was one floor down. Yossi’s hair was still wet from his 
shower when the first guests arrived and the caterers began the risky 
business of decanting wine corked in Planet Earth’s dense atmosphere. 
Yossi couldn’t afford to develop a taste for the precious stuff. Actually, 
maybe he could, but he wasn’t used to thinking that way. He stuck to 
the local brew, and retired to the couch with his mug. 

People gathered around him, a fair number of women. They admired 
his courage (or perhaps his narrow comeliness and curly hair, and that 
bitter twist to his lips), until a dime woman said: “I don’t see what’s 
heroic about squawking on the radio after those people were a whole day 
away.” 

“I agree with you,” Yossi said. “Although Bai threatened to freeze my 
money, and he made some hints about hired thugs — ” 

“Shouldn’t you be careful about libel?” the dime woman went on un- 
pleasantly. “The Martian economy owes a lot to research labs like 
Gledhill. We should take care what we say about those chosen to run 
them. Bragolio has the highest reputation — ” 

“This is a private party. My guests are free to say what they like,” 
Randolph spoke, closing in on the couch. Yossi’s audience shifted to make 
room for him. “And that sounds like small town thinking. Tell only happy 
news. Be a booster.” 

The dime stood. “But this man’s making a social career out of black- 
ening other people’s names.” 

“He was just sitting quietly until we pestered him,” another woman 
said. “Has anybody heard from his Bai fellow? Couldn’t he radio some 
denial? It seems strange to keep quiet.” 

“He might not have a radio. People should wait — ” 

“Yes indeed,” Randolph interrupted. “Anyhow, Yossi’s tired of talking 
about the chap. Let’s change the subject. You say you had some conversa- 
tions with the former director? The old Bragolio, as opposed to the new 
one?” 

“We had the same watch shift,” Yossi answered. “So he told me all 
this stuff about God.” 

“And about some heresies?” 

“Yeah.” Yossi took breath. “The universe is sliced through by some- 
thing called the chaos threshold. Below that threshold, causes have pro- 
portional effects. But mostly causes have radically transformational ef- 
fects, so the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in China causes a 
thunderstorm in Canamexica one week later. The human brain can keep 
track of Newtonian things like billiard balls, but not even computers can 
keep track of all those butterflies.” 

Randolph handed Yossi a drink. He sipped before continuing. “Okay, 
if the universe were like clockwork, the end state would be reversible. 
Even if God weren’t all that smart, he could resurrect you and me. 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


261 


because what we’re dealing with is a universe that works like a memory 
device. 

“But we know the universe isn’t like that, so until chaos theory devel- 
oped, we didn’t think of the universe as a memory device. Physicists still 
don’t think of it that way, because the number of bitflips needed to play 
the universe backward and bring the dead to life is well beyond the 
cognitive power of this universe, even if it were all one giant computer!” 

“So God has to be bigger?” one of the crowd asked. “Wow.” 

“Yeah,” Yossi agreed. “All this is a revival of old ideas about God being 
transcendent. The universe is his creation, but the resurrection of the 
dead can’t work unless there really is an End Time, when God freezes 
the picture and applies his calculations. But by itself, this doesn’t force 
us to admit that there is a God. Even if the Bible anticipates chaos theory 
by talking about how the humble can bring down the wise, and how 
sparrows and mustard seeds are important — ” 

“You were talking about heresies,” Randolph said. 

Yossi nodded. “The most seductive is the Asimovian heresy. If you go 
back a million years and step on some grass, what happens? If you’re a 
Newtonian, there’s some residual effect a million years later, but it was 
unimportant, so the effect isn’t important either. And if you’re an Asi- 
movian, things get erased over time. 

“Suppose Fercho hadn’t invented his memory transfer equipment four 
hundred years ago, or Columbus got the plague instead of finding 
America. As time passes this gets smoothed out, until a million years 
from now it makes no difference whatever. 

“That sounds plausible, but according to chaos theory it’s absolutely 
wrong. Stepping on the grass has a radical effect within a week, and it 
keeps getting more radicall It ripples out, see? It’s all too bad for Lester. 
He’d be better off if Asimov was right. Then the universe would be a 
lousy memory device. God would have to shuffle off, because he can’t do 
his job.” 

A norm had replaced the dime woman who’d been so unfriendly a few 
minutes before. He screwed up his face. “I don’t see how changes could 
ripple forever. The universe is a closed pond — ” 

“That’s it!” Yossi exclaimed. “Thanks, I forgot something. See, the 
universe is expanding. Life is getting more complicated. People have 
developed a moral universe on top of the physical one, so there are always 
new ways for causes to have their effects, more and more room. But at 
some point the universe will start contracting, so God would be smart to 
have his End Times before the squeeze is on. 

“But this is precisely what Lester wants to look for, poking his head 
into some other universe. If that universe is shrinking, or frozen into 
some non-expanding constancy, that’s the place for him. No God, see? 
Well, I don’t either, but the guy was a tad unhinged. I had to listen for 
most of a week. A lot was over my head if it ever made sense in the first 
place.” 

“We don’t need God anymore,” a woman said. “We’ve got our own 

262 PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


resurrection. When these bodies die we can become bugs, or get played 
into new flesh.” 

“Yeah, but our ancestors need him,” Yossi answered, his voice rough 
from overuse. “And accidents happen. How many people alive in the 
2040’s are still around today? But that’s not Lester’s concern. He doesn’t 
want God, he’s just stuck with him, unless he can escape.” This said, 
Yossi swallowed the rest of his drink. “I’ve talked myself dry.” 

Some of his audience took this as a release. After a minute, Yossi 
wandered off, grazing for food. Randolph came up and patted his shoul- 
der. “Thank you.” 

“What did I do?” 

“That dime woman? We’re running a check. Emma Schalk’s with cus- 
toms. She was up in Fournier LTO back at the turn of the month, when 
that attempt was made on Morse’s life. Now we’ve got someone to watch.” 

“Another unintentional favor,” Yossi muttered. Here was a new chance 
to lobby Randolph. “See how lucky I am when I’m around? And what a 
disaster when I’m off on my own? You’ve got to send me to Greta, that 
proves it.” 

“Yeah.” Randolph lowered his voice. “Okay, can you make tomorrow’s 
day train to Fournier? Deliver your petition to the judge, swear your 
oaths, and I’ll get you ticketed to Escalante Station. It gets complicated 
after that, but first you need to pack and hire your replacement. There’s 
papers to sign if you want me to stand proxy, and other stuff if you want 
to borrow bank money for your second ship.” 

“Get all that together. I’ll sign in the morning. Right now I’d better 
bounce off to the Chapterhouse,” Yossi responded. “This is late for me. 
Uh, what about a bodyguard?” 

“Have Sven come with you. Big guy at the door with a blond goatee. 
Good luck.” 

“Same to you,” Yossi answered. 


-4/16 Braho 15- 

Sister Su had left her battery case up on the top of the cliff, together 
with a heap of legs and tools. Stripped down, she was little more than 
an audio-spectral sensory unit protected by a solar carapace, her more 
productive (but delicate) wing panels half retracted because of the rough 
terrain. Torso clamps held her snugly to the cable as she spun down, her 
two remaining appendages ready to grab whatever she might find. 

A rockfall had isolated this part of the old monastery back in the 
second intercometary, during the peak years of the mummy-cult era. But 
though they were difficult to get to, these cliff niches could be inspected 
telescopically, niches crowded with bodies in lotus posture, freeze-dried 
to a hardness recently becoming brittle. Pictures proved it; pictures of 
flaking and decomposition. Could anything be done to save these relics 
of the past? 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


263 


Some monks and nuns in the upper echelons hailed back to those weird 
old times, and were genuinely concerned. They wanted samples taken. 
As usual, Su was in charge of the mission. 

"First we’ll take DNA samples. Then the lab will hunt for parasitical 
organisms. Once we rule out bacterial agencies, we’ll take a look at temper- 
ature stresses . . .” Sister Sue replayed Abbot Gould’s words in her mind, 
words that conceded a monstrous possibility: the thickening of Mars’s 
atmosphere made biological life viable even here, twenty-five kilometers 
above “sea level”! 

It wasn’t possible, however nutritious these brittle corpses might seem 
to a desperate lost microbe. On her last foray down the Olympic plateau, 
Su the great bug explorer, delver of lava-tubes and ten-times published 
areologist, had found only moribund spores above the fifteen kilometer 
mark. Olympus Mons was a bug reservation by treaty, but mostly be- 
cause wetlife had no use for it: they came as tourists, or to die. 

Or they sent up their souls, by the thousands. The new monastery was 
crowded with bugs who acted like Olympus was retirement heaven. They 
basked and played games, or imagineered themselves into c-space drama 
fantasies. Only a rare few remained restless, and took on new ambitions. 

Su enlisted her team from among that number. But this particular 
mission was hardly a team job — just fill a few containers with corpse 
dust. And do it before the sun began to set. Without her battery pack, 
Su had no margin of time before low-power shutdown. Once her source 
of light was gone she’d hang dead on this cable all night, and lose face 
in front of everyone. 

It mustn’t happen. Shadows meant danger, and Su tracked their 
lengths carefully. She descended three hundred meters down the cliff 
face, and positioned to swing in to her first goal. She hooked the niche 
ledge, reeled close, and unscrewed container number one. 

This first mummy was in bad shape; the body of Paidrog O’Somebody- 
or-other, an emigrant to some distant comet who could hardly mind if 
his corpse was sampled in a worthy cause. Su was pleased, because 
Paidrog was a worst-case monstrosity. Now for someone who’d weathered 
time a little better. 

She slid down her tether another forty meters to another niche and 
another clump of bodies. Lurlene Talboy, an early convert to Mahayana 
Buddhism, had walked this far back when there was a ledge to walk on, 
sat down stark naked, and forced herself to look serene before death 
came; a matter of thirty seconds of gassy agony. Her courage contributed 
to the starting up of the mummy cult, yet old as it was, her body was 
tough as rawhide. Su extruded a scalpel to slice off a bit of Lurlene’s 
inner thigh. 

Shit. None of the legends had said she’d gooped herself with — Lucite? 
Lacquer? Stripped down as she was, Su had no way to perform chemical 
analyses. 

As she sawed, a radio voice interrupted her thoughts: Su, this is Monsi- 
gnor Kirschwasser; Diplomatic Office. Switch to encryption routine four 


264 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 




one six. Something’ s come up, a job for your whole team. Can you muster 
them in six hours'?” 

Su coded her answer and spoke slowly to give the encryption routine 
time to transmit a haystack of noise for every needle of real content. 
“Eighteen hours minimum. Some of my gang are pretty far down into 
Piccolo Crack. Why the rush?” 

"I can’t say until we’re cabled for ultra-privacy. Your team are going to 
need training in new modules. Training in deep-atmosphere operations. 
Laserlaunch training. Days of preparation! How many have scruples 
against killing wetbrains in a desperate cause? Eliminate those from your 
count.” 

“It’s still going to take eighteen hours.” Su looked at the lowering sun, 
and was careful not to transmit her frustration. “I’ll come straight up. 
See you as soon as I get there.” 

The Diplomatic Office was a bunker sprouted with antennae, roofing 
over a collapsed lava tube some distance back from the caldera cliffs. As 
soon as Su put herself together again, legs, tools and batteries, she rode 
the slideway across the three-klom distance and plugged into one of 
Kirschwasser’s I/O ports — like any bug bigwig, the poor guy was too 
networked to move, too multi-slotted and commlinked. He was a traffic 
cop in a jam of data. 

As soon as the connect was verified, the monsignor spoke without 
pleasantries or introductions. “A shockley named Lester Bragolio ap- 
pears to be a participant in some criminal scheme. We’ve overheard 
transmissions from someone named Yossi Jardac on one of the human 
emergency bands, accusing him indirectly of murder. The affect rating 
is high; the fellow’s sincere. This is the second such accusation connected 
with Lester’s loss of office. He’s been kicked out of Gledhill Labs, and 
since then he’s clearly avoided custody. Thanks to this second death he 
has escaped norm scrutiny. Implications?” 

Su ran a probability check. “He was involved in something the norms 
didn’t like, and he means to persist.” At sixty-two true to thirty-three 
false, her statement was better than a guess. 

“We’ve looked further into the situation,” Kirschwasser went on. “He 
was working with transdegenerate states of matter-energy.” 

Looked into the situation, huh? Bugs masquerading as fictoids, as gad- 
getry, as reefer boxes and AV consoles, were scattered all over Mars, 
perfect spies who never had to eat or sleep or pee: spies who thought 
nothing of ten-year stints of service. Of course there’d be one at Gledhill, 
handicapped by his or her disguise, but somehow able to get the word 
out. 

Su’s thoughts raced ahead. A second spy was involved too, or why this 
sudden urgency? “We know where he is, and you want my team to . . .” 

“To assist the norms in their inquiries,” Kirschwasser said. The mes- 
sage stream included no tone of voice, just a string of letters and punctua- 
tion, but Su understood that the monsignor was being facetious. “Legally 
speaking, it’s none of our business,” he continued, “but if we strike before 
Lester advances his work ... You know what string is, don’t you?” 


266 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


“It had to do with the early universe. With the formation of galactic 
clusters?” Su guessed. 

“Those clusters are the largest irregularities in the cosmic pattern,” 
Kirschwasser answered. “The stuff that made them is nothing to mess 
with. The whole technology has to be forgotten; quickly and absolutely. 
The possibilities in Lester’s head have to be suppressed. He’s got to die. 
I want your team to make sure he does.” 

“At what personal risks?” Su said. “We might be arrested; even wiped 
or pulsed.” 

“Sometimes heroes have to be villains,” Kirschwasser answered. “And 
sometimes even villains have to make a supreme sacrifice. All Olympus 
is behind you. We’ll remember you in our prayers, and restore your 
backup souls if any of you should die during your mission.” 

Sister Su thought many thoughts during the next few milliseconds, a 
gap that meant EOI: transmission over. She unplugged herself, indulged 
in shock at the idea of killing a wetbrain, and ran through her options. 

Kirschwasser was right. There was nothing else to do. The safety of 
Mars was paramount, so Lester was doomed. She went through her data- 
base, and began radioing out a series of priority-A summonses. 


-4/16 Braho 16- 

Escalante Station began as a terminal, a yard, and a row of ware- 
houses. In time the front offices became shops. The recently built hotel 
had outward-facing windows. It was an unusual design, but the land was 
green with the help of windmills and irrigation canals. Visitors from 
north and south liked looking at all the foliage. 

Those visitors had rowdy ideas of entertainment. The good folk of 
Escalante attempted to thwart them. 

Clashes got tiresome. Accommodations were made. The hotel was 
posted off limits to snomos and other wild types, who got leave to camp 
in the municipal park. The citizens of Escalante bought land for a second 
park, turned a blind eye to the first, and everyone was — well, not happy, 
but business jogged along. 

Sophisticated tourists from Fournier were rare, but valued. They rode 
in on the train, took rooms in the hotel, sniffed at the shops, then van- 
ished into the vice-ridden stews of Snomo Park. 

The park began to boast permanent residents. They elected their own 
mayor. Fabric walls gave way to sheet metal, and in time to foamstone. 
The decent dimes, norms, and tubers of Escalante voted to plow the place 
under. They mustered three hundred souls and some heavy equipment. 
Thirty or forty snomos scrambled off during the assault. They returned 
for revenge some hours later, the teamsters driving two- and three-axle 
khods. 

The hotel was designed to survive into the fifth intercometary, dust 
and marsquakes be damned. Much of it still stood the next morning. The 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


267 


warehouses were so many shambles. A day later, norm marshals arrived 
from Fournier. Six snomos were tried and convicted. Escalante Station 
began to rebuild. 

Sophisticated tourists now lodged in patched hotel rooms. They were 
told that no Snomo Park existed, nor ever would again. 

Arundhati didn’t mean to prove anyone wrong: she just asked the fruit 
man at Lafferty Farms if he had anything “ ‘special.’ — You know what 
I mean?” 

The dime scratched his bald head. “What do you mean?” 

“Blues. Low numbers, anything earlier than B-50. 1 mean, I’m not a — ” 

“We don’t carry Blue fruit.” The bald dime wrestled with his con- 
science, and then continued. “You might try at that new snomo camp. 
They sell wild fruit. But you gotta watch out. I wouldn’t go there alone.” 

“Where is it?” Arundhati asked. 

“Take a right where the old park was and go maybe three kloms, 
keeping the ditch to your side. You’ll see it. They’re going to incorporate 
and have their own town. I suppose that’s how it should be, except three 
kloms isn’t far enough.” 

Arundhati returned to the hotel. She collared Greta. “You people have 
to go, but if I’m to enter the Blue world this is the place to start. I don’t 
see how I can pass as a novice fan unless I’ve eaten a dozen low numbers. 
Then maybe someone will take my schooling in hand, but that’ll work 
better if I’m not closely tied to you.” 

Greta pondered. “I want to give you a wad of cash. Will you need a 
weapon?” 

“No.” Arundhati shook her head emphatically. “After a bit I’ll ride 
south at whatever pace seems natural. I’ll recognize any messages you 
send through my tiepatch as, uh. Bozo the Clown. I don’t have the gear 
to patch you back, but I’ll respond as fast as I can.” 

Greta gripped Arundhati’s shoulders and gazed sadly into her eyes. 
“I’ve got news from Randolph. Remember I told you my brother screwed 
us up last week with all his Bai Shan noise? Damn it. I’m proud he put 
justice above cash, even if it makes our work harder, but the word is, 
Yossi’s coming out to join us. He’s getting his own squad of marshals to 
hunt down the bad guys. I’m only glad he won’t know you — ” 

“ — Because he’s such a lousy liar,” Arundhati finished. “Life gets inter- 
esting. If I turn into a damsel in distress, your sterling brother might be 
the only one around to rescue me. Is he handsome, by any chance?” 

“Not bad.” But Greta couldn’t be jollied. “Your soul’s on file back at 
Fournier,” she said. “If anything goes wrong, I promise you won’t stay 
permanently dead.” 

Arundhati smiled. “Thanks for the sentiment. Thanks for daring to 
say the ‘d’-word. This is one of those damnfool worthy causes — oh, let’s 
just hug goodbye, before this gets too meaningful for me.” 

Ten minutes later, Greta and her dimes were out the door, loading 
onto a khod. The vehicle lurched forward on its giant tires. Arundhati 
waved, put on her coat and snood, and began her own hike, muttering 


268 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


maledictions at Lisbet Hume when her overlarge legs started to chafe. 
Lisbet-the-pathological-liar turned out not to be a natural blonde after 
all. Arundhati’s roots were coming in dark, an appropriate transforma- 
tion. She’d be more her own person as a brunette with a short cut. And 
someday, maybe, a svelta brunette! 

There was Blue fruit at the snomo camp. Arundhati found a tuber who 
wasn’t too diverted to sell her a couple. The letters of his Quacksalver 
Dreams sign were penciled and awaiting paint: he laid down his brush 
after finishing the curlicued “k” to take her cash. 

“I wonder if I should eat these here,” Arundhati said, looking around 
at flapping fabric, tight guy-ropes, and the occasional heap of rubble. She 
wasn’t ready to face the hike back to Escalante. 

“Sure,” the tuber winked. “Use my tent. Jono Quacksalver at your 
service.” The name sounded made up. Perhaps it was tjTpical of fans to 
do that. 

“Arundhati. That’s all I call myself, just the one name.” With a nervous 
smile, she crawled in, looked at her booty, and took a bite. 

Minutes later, Arundhati woke to her own reality with vast relief She 
was alive! No, they hadn’t eaten her, the cannibals in that huge room, 
hungry, yet so reverent — gawking as if she were a god! 

She shuddered. Where had Gisborne gotten this ugly vision, this night- 
mare overpopulated Earth? Had it been like that once? 

The impact wouldn’t be so powerful if the protagonist hadn’t been her. 
How could that happen? 

And did she dare eat this second fruit? No, not yet. Arundhati looked 
at herself When she’d first seen this body, the hour she’d landed on 
Mars, it had seemed pretty. Overweight, yes, but pretty first. Gisborne’s 
eyes saw her differently. Her healthy pink became a dead gray, flushed 
at times by hectic color. She’d grown saggy and deformed. Why would 
anyone want to go back to that by eating another Blue? 

Blue fans must have a great need to punish themselves, Arundhati 
decided. It all has to do with traffic in pain. Sadism, and masochism. 

Wiping his paintbrush, Jono Quacksalver peered back at her from 
outside the tent. “Ah, you’ve finished. That’s one of the early ones. I’m 
not a compulsive librarian, but I like to eat fruit in chronological order. 
If you’re new to Gisborne there’s no other way. Something like B-94 
would have you running off to join a convent!” 

“And this other one?” Arundhati asked. 

“Some history in that. Genetic research in South Africa. The place 
where concentration laagers were invented in the Boer wars, and this is 
a couple lifetimes later. Watch out, or the kaffirs will get you! They’re 
your victims, your lab animals. Imagine how they hate you!” 

Arundhati shuddered. “Aren’t there any — easier — adventures?” 

The tuber grinned. “That’s Blue Gisborne! If you want easy, eat White 
and be a barbie doll.” 

“That would be the cruelest ordeal; to be plastic-perfect in a perfect 
world, and then see it start crumbling away.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


269 


Jono nodded at Arundhati’s insight. “If you can think it, Gisborne’s 
done it. Too bad I can’t offer a full library, but once this new Snomo Park 
gets built up. I’ll have hundreds of fruit to choose from.” 

“And all grown around here. Far enough from Fournier so nobody 
notices, but somewhere fertile.” 

‘That’s where you’re wrong! Fruit bushes are tough. They grow any- 
where.” The man picked at his face. “You want to know where I get my 
supplies? I could tell you. Yes, I could tell you.” 

“Really?” Name your price! 

“I’d like to . . . take care of you,” Jono said. His look of cunning dropped 
away and he began to blush. “I’d be your servant, see? You have a 
queenly look; not cold enough about the eyes, but you could be de- 
manding. I’d — I’d feed you, and dress you, and fetch pretty things ...” 

“I expect obedience.” Arundhati shifted, trying for a dominatrix pose. 
“There aren’t many Blue women,” she guessed, hoping she was playing 
this right. “I can be choosy. Only the best at treating me right are allowed 
to serve me. But I’ll teach you, and you’ll learn. And don’t think I won’t 
punish you if I’m not satisfied!” 

The joy that transformed Jono Quacksalver’s face was almost terrify- 
ing. “\^at first?” he asked. 

Certainly nothing expensive, Arundhati thought, considering how mar- 
ginal Jono’s business was. The man was an enterprising transient, noth- 
ing more. “Some ointment for my legs. Then a foot-rub. Then maybe a 
nice snack.” I have a gift for this, Arundhati decided. I can rattle off 
task after task. Poor Jono! What are we getting into here? 

She’d bring him to the hotel, she decided. Perhaps he’d enjoy the depen- 
dency of spending her cash, not his. For a couple of days they’d live with 
one foot in Escalante, and she’d make him talk about Blue fandom. Who 
were the great librarians, and all that. Then . . . who could say? 


-4/16 Braho 19- 


Yossi was the complainant, and the judge had sworn four marshals 
over to him. It was with a mix of legal deferral and professional conceit 
that they left the train at Escalante Station and suggested a meeting in 
the hotel bar with the local station-mistress. 

“If you’re looking for low-lifers, they’re well gone, three kloms up the 
road,” she informed the party. Not supposing them to know any manners, 
she poured her own sake and took a quick sip. “A tuber? And ethnic Han 
Chinese. Ah, yes, his picture. No, can’t say I’ve seen Bai Shan, and 
certainly not any shockleys.” 

“No,” Yossi agreed. “They’re two thousand kloms so — ” 

Marshall Mendieta cut him off. “We want to stick up posters: ‘Wanted 
for Questioning.’ Don’t expect them yet, but maybe these next months.” 
He rose and touched his hood, a signal for the others to follow him 
outside. 


270 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


That afternoon the marshals spread through the settlement, putting 
the locals on warning. Mendieta and Yossi hiked to Snomo Park and 
made inquiries. Snomos of various ancestries, none Arabic, seemed un- 
concerned about the murder of a norm named Hasday Ghazzabi. “You 
must be in tiepatch contact with people farther south,” Mendieta said to 
Greg Begay, who was dark enough under white fur, but Navajo. “They 
might have noticed newcomers.” 

“Yeah. Blues jamming around that big library, the one Colonel Plot- 
witt built out of the wreck of the Carthoris,” Begay answered. “We had 
some fans until a day ago; they decided to hea^ that way. Woman hired 
a teamster. You’d need your own khod to follow ’em. I can give you names 
of good drivers.” 

Yossi shook his head. “No, we’re not interested in Blues.” It was the 
obvious thing to say, because the truth was just the opposite. He imag- 
ined a spy satellite trying to make sense of scores of converging khod- 
tracks. A Blue jamboree was perfect cover for Lester Bragolio’s work, 
assuming this library-place was big enough. Being Blue, Bai could serve 
as a patron. But if that was true, Yossi’d have to steer his marshals away 
from there. 

He tiepatched into a map. “How about, uh, Arrhenius Crater? Or 
Muller?” 

“New lady coming into Arrhenius. A bit classy for a trader’s apron if 
you ask me. She’ll be pulling in about now, and she’s got a bunch of 
dimes with her.” 

Begay smiled as he spoke. Yossi felt a familiar rapport: The snomo 
was too well-brought up to call them idiots or fools, his smile said. But 
they hadn’t a hope of building a Dimetown in crater country. 

“Sounds like it’s getting crowded down there,” Mendieta joked. 

Begay shrugged. He picked up some tongs. “You guys want mutton? I 
got meat on my hotbox. Three cash for a sandwich.” 

Yossi managed to choke out “no.” “I’ve never seen cooked — mam- 
mal — before. Lord bloody haysause, please don’t wave it. We’d better go, 
but if you hear anything ...” 

They hurried off, leaving these words adrift, hearing the snomo 
chuckle behind them. 


-4/16 Braho 22- 


Arundhati lay on the sleeperette behind the snomo teamster. As his 
khod jounced southward on its giant wheels, she decided that life was 
cruel. 

This insight struck her after her seventh fruit. Life was cruel. Cer- 
tainly Jono Quacksalver was cruel to pamper her, trying to feed her 
beyond mere lazy plumpness. Seen with Gisborne’s hard eyes, her body 
was swollen and pale as a toadstool. She was a slug, and she deserved 
rape and drowning, and confinement in a solitary cell. . . . 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


271 


This last time, religious zealots performed the female counterpart of 
castration. She shrieked her sins, confessing at the top of her voice, but 
never confessing the right thing, because they never told her what they 
wanted to hear. Afterward, she demanded something to drink — a lot to 
drink. She barked orders at Jono, humiliating him into servile ecstasy. 

What a worm! And increasingly grotesque in appearance, something 
she hadn’t noticed the first day she met him. Of course, back then she 
hadn’t known her own ugliness either. And the snomo had seemed hearty 
in Escalante Station, rather than fiercely apelike. 

At the equator the landscape hadn’t been so dead and monotonous, but 
now it was just boulders and low hills and random fruit bushes. With 
distance Mars grew colder; white at night, shadow frost shrinking by 
day. You could get stranded and never found, your freeze-dried body 
lying behind a rock while rescuers hunted meters away. The sun shone 
too small in a too dark sky, and the khod threw up choking clouds of 
dust. 

One thousand, eight hundred kloms of hell. Four days to Arrhenius 
Trading Post, assuming no accidents. Then another three hundred kloms 
off at an angle to Plotwitt’s Library, a habitat scavenged out of the ruins 
of a wrecked spaceship. It was going to be one hell of a Blue jamboree, 
true though it was that Jono hadn’t exactly been invited. 

Come to think, hadn’t it been four days? Arundhati’s heart flut- 
tered . . . but no. No devious Gisborne-plots, bad guys whisking her off 
to do evil things. She’d just lost track. Easy, with all that fruit, and too 
much drinking in between. “How much longer?” she asked. “Jono, find 
out — ” 

“Six hours,” the snomo answered. He didn’t like her. Arundhati didn’t 
blame him. The way she treated Jono was a crime. 

She tapped her tiepatch, and figured their position on a map. A hun- 
dred fifty kloms from Greta. She’d know by the look in Greta’s eyes if 
she was ugly, or if the way she saw herself was just the effect of too many 
Blues. 

Was there an antidote? She asked herself that question more often 
than any other. More often than: How will I recognize what Lester Bra- 
golio is up to? How will I decide if it’s safe to stop him? 

The red ring around Arrhenius showed that she was close to tiepatch 
transmission range, a distance limited by the strength of her unboosted 
battery. The lack of a keyboard made the job time-consuming; tapping 
up the labials and then skipping p and ph to get 6, then tapping ENTER. 
O was the fourth entry in the vowel menu, and z . . . 

Arundhati had no idea whether z was a palatal, cerebral or dental. 
She took ten minutes to compose “Bozo the Clown.” Tiepatches weren’t 
meant for this sort of thing. “C you 2nite in the privy” seemed an appro- 
priate message, a bit jokey. “Beds?” She hit SEND, and kept the screen 
up so she could SEND again every twenty minutes. 

Except for that, she drowsed like a bored cat. A message came back; 
“Lots of room. Tots gone.” 


272 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Arrhenius Trading Post was in the center of a low crater a hundred 
thirty kloms across, so there weren’t even any ridge-walls to look at, just 
desert, with bushes now and again. 

The bushes grew thicker. Trails converged, tires, hooves and feet, and 
there they were. Arundhati was last to get out of the khod. She looked 
forward to these next minutes with eager dread. “Jono, I have to talk to 
Greta privately. I don’t want you hanging near me.” She gave him a pat 
on the head, poor recompense, but it was much too late to be fair to him, 
and she couldn’t stretch to be queen to one person and employee to 
another, both at the same time. 

Greta was obliging. Arundhati dove through the store part of the igloo, 
dragging the norm back into the kitchen. She pulled down her snood. 
“Do you have Blue seeds? There’s got to be an inventory, right? I need 
an excuse to wangle my way into Plotwitt’s Library. It’s what a fire- 
breathing clerk might do. It’s in character,” she added pleadingly. 

“Plotwitt’s. That’s, uh . . .” Greta turned to a map on the keeper door, 
marked with names and riddled with pinholes. 

“It’s the Carthoris. There’s a Blue gathering taking place now. It’s 
perfect cover for Lester and Bai. They could have arranged it. That’s 
what smart people do with months to plan. They set up covers, like you 
with your dime gang. Where are they, by the way?” 

Greta tapped places in sequence along the map, running west to the 
coast of the Throxus. “They’ll cut south short of the shore and then come 
back, a triangular trip.” 

“Good. They’re out of the way. When Yossi comes, he can follow them, 
like he’s worried about their innocent safety.” 

“He’s a day behind you,” Greta said. “Thirty-some hours at most. Why 
don’t I keep him until you’ve gotten there? If Lester’s at home, patch me 
a message. Something innocuous, like 'Send more fruit.’ ” 

Arundhati nodded. “I’ll do that. Just give me a signal booster. And if 
it’s time to raid. I’ll say 'Top prices for Blue here.’ ” She began to peel off 
her outdoor suit, while Greta peeked from the kitchen into the store. 
“Who’s the tuber?” 

“Jono Quacksalver. I’m his domina, and I’m tired as hell of giving 
orders and playing the bitch.” Arundhati’s eyes welled up. “I was a norm 
and norms are angels. Now I’ve fallen out of heaven. I’ve plunged as far 
as you can fall, rolling around in Gisborne’s psychotic shit, and maybe 
it shows.” 

Greta shook her head. “You’re tired. We’ll do some laundry for you 
tonight, and you’ll be better in the morning. I’ll get Jono a separate 
bedroom. Is that okay?” 

“Wonderful.” Except it’s only my head that’s exhausted. My body hasn’t 
had anything to do for four days! 

She fell asleep anyhow. She woke to breakfast, her clothes neatly 
folded by her bag. An hour later, she was back in the khod, ready for 
another day of hell on the road. 

It took three hours to reach the crater wall, three hours in which Jono 
fed her B-41. She was a mother, illegally pregnant with her second child. 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


273 


What did she know of this society’s laws? Caught, imprisoned — how 
could she know that by saying no to abortion, she’d condemned her first 
daughter to death? 

The khod crawled up the slope, and over. Nine more hours to go. At 
this distance her tiepatch barely caught Greta’s message: “Keystone Kops 
just in range.” She had a booster behind her travel pack. She could plug 
it in. She might send a word to Yossi, this lifelong tuber who might have 
frizzy red-gold hair like his sister. He was a victim, like her. Not a victim 
of Lester, Bai, Randolph, or Greta; but a victim of the mission. 

How would he be used? Was he thinking of her? Did he know that she 
existed? He’d find out soon, and what was this anyway? She was practi- 
cally mooning over the guy! He was probably short, with a beer belly 
and bad teeth. He’d smell of fish, and have the wrong politics. 

She didn’t even have his picture in her tiepatch database. That showed 
how much of an amateur she was. An amateur on an amateur’s planet, 
where spy satellites couldn’t track ships or khods if their crews took a 
few precautions. Were things done more expertly on Earth? Or was that 
just video? 

Compared to the video shows she’d grown up with back in Winnipeg, 
the Blue world was shot through with righteousness. It was Purgatory v 
and punishment. Life walked a thin crust over a yawning pit, and there 
was nothing to laugh about. 

Nothing to see, either. Rocks and rubble, low hills, bushes, frost in the 
shadows. A star dropped out of the sky. Maybe it was time to eat another 
fruit. 

The sight was eerie. A roller-coaster lay half-buried in a sandstorm, 
fretworked girders ribboning above a long dune. That’s what the Carth- 
oris looked like, the ruddy color dimming with sunset. At lOx magnifica- 
tion, Arundhati saw that the interstices were glazed to create rows of 
glittery greenhouse rooms. Bushes grew inside. Lights dangled, bright- 
ening as the winds gusted and the high propellers whirled. 

Colonel Plotwitt must have a good deal of money. As yet Arundhati 
knew nothing about him. Was he still alive? Jono wasn’t sure. He might 
be a figment behind which Lester and Bai operated, but she couldn’t ask 
her slave that without giving herself away. 

Khods sat out in front, at the foot of the dune. So did a shuttle. Wow. 
Maybe fans flew down from the moons. Or from as far away as Earth! 

What a low-budget thing a local fan like her was, compared with such 
interplanetary glamour! What was she thinking of, to come bearing these 
handfuls of seeds as the price of admission! Arundhati’s fears grew as 
they wheeled closer. 

Another shooting star. 

The khod drew up, and the snomo began damping the engine, rod by 
rod. Jono popped the weather bubble. He helped Arundhati down. “Ne 
zorgu about anything,” he told her in an urgent voice. “I’ll take care of 
you. Anything you want, think of me first.” He took her bags and hurried 
around her to lead the way. 


274 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


The skies were clear, but falling temperatures precipitated the usual 
dusk snow-out-of-nowhere, drifting down onto the equally sudden hoar- 
frost. The two unannounced guests left red bootprints that crystallized 
into whiteness as they approached the library, a thin white that would 
melt minutes after sunrise. 

A many-headed hologram dog guarded a door framed by an arch with 
a human skull surmounting it, bones paired symmetrically down either 
side. It led to a tossuf-airlock. Here a pasty-faced man in a Cardinal’s 
cassock and biretta hauled himself to his feet. Reeling close, he whispered 
a few guarded questions while his fever-bright eyes fawned over Arund- 
hati’s lush figure. “You say you have seeds to sell?” 

“We’ve heard of the library, of course,” Arundhati answered, keeping 
her voice low. “So I thought we might make some swaps. Mine are wild 
seeds, brought in by snomos to the Arrhenius Trading Post. They could 
be wonderful — ” 

“Or useless as a fart at a funeral. Blue seeds sold to non-connoisseurs 
usually are.” 

The Cardinal’s words took Arundhati aback. “Still, we haven’t always 
seen that many fans hereabouts,” she answered. “Will the Colonel — ?” 

“Oh, he’ll see you, if you wait a day or two. If you’ve got cash for the 
fee we can squeeze you in.” The Cardinal plucked a pillbox out of a pocket 
hidden among his skirts. He opened it and crunched a small capsule. 
“Would you like one?” His smile said I dare you! 

“No. Is there — ?” 

“Registration is one flight up. Don’t use the airtube; kids, you know. 
You’ll want to get on the Colonel’s catalogue list first thing, and then 
God forgive me, but when I see the young flesh, those fresh innocent 
cherubs in their kicking and hammering fists so happy and laughing and 
angry chasing and grabbing each other with the wind blowing them up 
like angels . . .” 

The Cardinal’s voice faded. His eyes went out of focus. Jono took Arun- 
dhati’s hand. They worked around him, through the inner door. The tube 
was as described. The airstream supported a tumbling flock of children. 
They played who-can-get-highest by pulling at each other’s arms and 
legs. "The hall was noisy with their shrill laughter. 

A violinist stalked by, tall in black tie-and-tails, with oily black hair, 
instrument in one hand and bow in the other. His name-tag read H. 
Fedak. A blonde dime followed, snake tattoos on her naked arms. Jono 
followed in Arundhati’s shadow as she spiraled up the wrought-metal 
stairs. 

She caught her breath at the top. A bird flew past, maybe a parrot. 
The place smelled of moult, and certainly of greenery. A tawny woman 
sat at the registration table, proud of her fine tight body, clad in matched 
panties and camisole whose violet color clashed with her orange skin. 
She laughed at a portly dime in a yellow shawl, and grabbed his fez to 
balance it on her own head. “Name?” 

“We’re not on your list, but the Cardinal let us in because I’ve got 
these Blue seeds . . .” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


275 


Arundhati re-explained herself. The woman grew bored. “Just sign, 
and fill in the blanks,” she said. “If you’re gonna peddle, talk to Dahud. 
He’s in charge of the dealers’ room. Fournier? That’s on Mars, or you’d 
just say Luna, or Earth, or the Stalk.” 

“It’s the capital,” Arundhati said, giving this bimbo an areography 
lesson. But the orange woman wasn’t listening: her attention diverted 
to a man in blue tights, eyemask, and cape. “God, he actually looks good!” 
she muttered. 

He was the least grotesque person in their vicinity, with a wide, sar- 
donic mouth and a chest worth studying for his name — yes, Alec St. Gall; 
nobody important after all, unless . . . hadn’t he been in the news back 
on Earth, however many weeks ago? Something to do with treasury 
notes, Europol, extradition . . . 

Whxit the hell is he doing here'? “So where’s Dahud?” Arundhati per- 
sisted, fumbling for thirty-five cash, ten meters away from a man who 
dealt in hundreds of millions. The thought was dizzying, and she grew 
dizzier as she scanned the registration list; Augustine Barthelemon to 
Mei Yin. Lester Bragolio and Bai Shan would have seemed plain next 
to Hippolyte Darke and Orlando Peregrinus, but she didn’t find either 
name. 

“I told you,” the orange woman answered. “Check the dealers’ room.” 
She handed Arundhati an illegible receipt and a blank name-tag. 

“Come on,” Jono said. “We’ll find him. Or have fun looking.” 

The library was macabre. Colonel Plotwitt had a menagerie of live and 
stuffed animals, plus videos, plus fruit bushes, plus actual hard books. 
But rather than providing a separate gallery for each, he’d mixed them 
together. Little cyber-carousels were scattered in with everything else. 
There was lots of discount furniture to be uncomfortable in. 

Arundhati saw trophies and relics. And worse yet: a box labeled “Bones 
from a meat-feast. 22/16/15/4.” Open carnivorism! 

But you eat fish, cu ne? She declined to argue with herself, and moved 
on. There was no marble on Mars, so this bust of Chester A. Arthur was 
either imported at incredible expense, or faked, even to the chip in his 
ear. She learned the truth when her hand slid through it. Chester’s 
hitherto benign face mimed pain and outrage. 

Up ahead a snomo looked through Arundhati like she was invisible, 
not quite blocking the way with his two-hundred-kilo bulk. A snomo in 
this indoor heat? But his fur was clipped into patterns, giving him strips 
of naked skin to sweat through. A lizard rode his shoulder, its jeweled 
collar linked by a gold chain to the larger one around his neck. 

Perhaps he too was “virtual,” and she could walk right through him. 
Arundhati suspected otherwise. She gave snomo a pass, and two other 
guests, before working up nerve to tap a stranger on the back. “We’re 
looking for a guy named Dahud? Or maybe the Colonel?” 

The man turned and looked at her in open shock. What the hell? He 
was a tuber, oriental . . . 

Oops. Arundhati played dumb. “Do I know you? Or is Lisbet Hume a 

276 PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


friend of yours? I’m sorry, but I got swapped into her body, so — ” She 
giggled. “I’m talking too much, aren’t I?” 

“Small world,” Bai Shan answered. “Mayhe too small. You’d be . . . ?” 

“I used to be a norm. I don’t quite know who I am anymore. Lost my 
job after my murder. Now I’m learning what life is like for tubers. Like, 
shitty.” 

“Have you got your tiepatch?” As he asked this question, Bai opened 
his coat so Jono could see his bolstered gun. ‘Tell your friend to take a 
hike. I’d like to talk to you alone. Who do you work for?” 

Arundhati turned and ordered Jono off, possibly out of her life. Re- 
grets? Her thoughts wouldn’t come into focus: Jono as hero, Jono saving 
the day. None of these hopes conformed to the reality of poor little Jono 
Quacksalver. When he was gone she answered. “I’m a clerk now. There’s 
this snomo trading post, and it’s a GIO job — ” 

“ — And you don’t know about any falling stars. We’ve seen them all 
evening. Bugs. Maybe even schneggs. Military bugs. Killers.” 

“But — but it’s not like eating Blue is against the law! Not the last I 
heard.” 

Bai smiled. “You’re good. Really good. I think I love you. Let’s go this 
way. Too dark?” 

He bent close and touched his lips to her cheek. “ — No, I didn’t think 
so. This is the Philosophy section. Look here. Plotinus. And here, Witt- 
genstein. Every system for organizing reality known to humankind fits 
between those two extremes. Plot-Witt. Understand? And between them, 
by some coincidence, a freight elevator. Let’s take a ride.” 

“You’re scaring me,” Arundhati responded. 

Bai grinned. “I used to look at that body, and think what a shame! If 
I could only scoop out Lisbet’s brains and put someone else inside! Now 
it’s happened. What message are you supposed to send to bring the bugs 
in? What’s the code? The word that means attack?” 

Arundhati shook her head. “I don’t know about any bugs. I saw two 
meteors on the way here. Honestly, that’s all!” 

The elevator rose. EnduraGlass wall panels replaced metal and foam- 
stone. The door opened. “Boss?” Bai asked. 

Arundhati saw potted bushes, and six samurai guards standing vigil, 
facing outward in a circle. 

Morse’s exact twin, Lester Bragolio stepped forward, right through the 
nearest samurai. “Who is she?” he asked, pointing as if Bai might not 
know who he was talking about. The shockley’s finger shook, from palsy 
or nerves. 

“A spook,” Bai said. “She says boo, and then all hell breaks loose. 
Right, dear?” 

Arundhati looked right and left, too many windows showing into naked 
young night. “I wish I knew why you’ve moved in on me,” she improvised, 
her voice as shaky as Lester’s hand. “Do you think I can be threatened? 
Oh, I get it! You figure I’m Lisbet. She was a liar, but — ” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


277 


“Contain your impatience, Bai, ” Lester interrupted. “An affect scan- 
ner will tell us if she’s sincere. Young lady, forgive us, but this is a life- 
and-death situation. Our six monitors are on alert. We’re at bay, and we 
can’t afford to be delicate about your civil liberties. Please answer: Are 
you working with the forces beyond our perimeter?” 

A vidcam slid close on a ceiling-track. Arundhati looked up. “I — uh, 
not with bugs.” 

“A half-truth,” one of the virtual samurai droned, his lips out of sync. 
Bai smiled to say he already knew. The smile dropped from his face when 
a moniter winked out of sight. Six samurai were now five. 

“Bug intruders have penetrated the five-klom perimeter,” one of the 
surviving images spoke. 

“Make her tell the truth,” Lester ordered, turning to face the still- 
distant threat. “If drugs are necessary — ” 

Arundhati gave up. “I’m telling the truth. The bugs are something 
else. They must have heard about your experiments with ten dimensions. 
They took their own steps. And of course they were super fast. My norms 
are only human. They can’t keep up.” 

“So you’d be in on the norm plot?” Lester asked. He hunched his shoul- 
ders defensively. 

“I was for a while,” Arundhati admitted. “Except — I don’t see why 
you’d believe me, but I’ve eaten a lot of Blue, and it’s a crash course in 
life as a tuber. I’ve changed these last days. I’m a new person.” 

She stared after the shockley as he paced across the room, away from 
her answer. “They used me,” she pleaded, raising her voice. “The Martian 
power structure played games with my life! If Greta knew about this bug 
attack, then they used me and broke their promise to keep me informed. 
And what’s it all about? To keep you from opening new doors. To preserve 
their lousy status quo!” 

“Bravo,” Lester said. Another samurai monitor vanished. Light flashed 
on the horizon. The shockley suppressed a shiver; he was badly fright- 
ened. But if Lester wasn’t the perfect master of his body, he was in 
complete control of his brain. “Bai, check the scanner. Is she sincere?” 

“She’s terrific. She’s got our equipment just about fooled,” Bai an- 
swered. “We should take her tiepatch and hold it safe, and bring her 
along. Then we can talk to the opposition if we want to. I’m also more 
than half in love with her.” 

“How long did your last love affair run?” Lester asked. 

“A few days.” Bai smiled. “This woman’s got the same body, but an 
improved soul.” Bai and Lester had a very unusual employee-boss rela- 
tionship if they could talk like this. Arundhati found time in her panic 
to nurse this fleeting thought. She felt all the more unsettled, as if she 
was floating inside a nightmare. 

Lester nodded. “Factor in her weight and let’s be off. If not her, some- 
one else may give the signal. Every minute counts. My gear is ready.” 

They got in the elevator and rode down. “Please understand, young 
lady,” Lester continued. “We anticipated the need for this upcoming 


278 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


launch. Soon we’ll be off for the one part of Mars where I can work in 
peace. Just by landing there, we’ll be presumed dead. There’s no snoopy 
neighbors, and a constant cloud cover to fend off the satellites. The prob- 
lem was, we needed special transport. A super-hopper. Thanks to this 
Blue jamboree, we’ve got one.” 

“The shuttle,” Arundhati guessed. 

“Brilliant. All we need do is dress, load, and go, without the previous 
owner complaining. I don’t think he’ll complain. Do you, Bai?” 

“No.” Bai’s smile wasn’t sinister at all. It was the smile of a generous 
man, not of a killer. If he could murder someone with that smile on his 
face, it would be the cruelest end of all, as if death counted less than 
nothing. 

Oh, God! Arundhati tried to stifle her terror. Maybe he’d paid for the 
shuttle, just paid. Maybe they did bodyswapping at Plotwitt’s Library, 
or sold some very, very special fruit. 

They reached a basement, metal walls bulging in, old stains on the 
floor. It was a warren of passages and they took one that brought them 
to a well-supplied suit-up area. Lester hurried to dress. “I’m a hostage, 
aren’t I?” Arundhati asked. “You think the bugs won’t shoot you down 
with me along, except they don’t know me from a hole in the ground. 
You’ve made a big mistake.” 

“Just dress. Don’t bother with a wigglesuit. We won’t be up there long.” 

Afterward they pulled some bolts, and a wall collapsed. Sand piled in. 
Bai led up, crunching out onto a ground-cover of frost. The old debarka- 
tion scaffold stood handy, and they climbed up. 

Lester and Arundhati settled in the lower passenger cabin. Bai shut 
the door. “We’re locked in. My assistant has luggage to take on before 
he becomes our pilot,” Lester explained. He raised his voice: “Shuttle? 
How do you feel?” 

“Lots of meteors tonight," the vessel answered. 

“Any try to talk to you? to sway your loyalties?” 

“Yeah. Bai’s a thug and you’re a crazy megalomaniac.” 

“Words, words.” Lester winked at Arundhati. “So who can you believe? 
Dangerous, cu ne, for a shuttle to grow confused?” 

i m not confused. You’re my new boss,” the shuttle answered. “Those 
other guys, they say you stuck some bad stuff into my decision protocols. 
They didn’t think it was possible. They say you’re a genius.” 

“That’s pleasant to hear. I’ve got pleasant news in return. We’re going 
for a fun ride. This is something you can remember and tell your fellow 
fictoids. A historic moment.” 

"You’ll excuse me, sir, hut it’s my duty to warn you of a point three 
danger condition. Someone just shot at Bai Shan from extreme range.” 

“Tell him to hurry inside,” Lester ordered. “They’ll only get more 
accurate with time. To hell with the luggage.” 

“Very good. Doctor Bragolio.” 

Two minutes later the shuttle thundered into the sky. 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


279 


-4/16 Braho 24- 


Yossi bent forward as Greta zoomed the screen in her private quarters, 
the rooms next in from the trading post kitchen. “Three people, yes. I 
see them on the shuttle scaffold. Bai, Lester, and who else? Have them 
drop color. The resolution is better with gray.” 

“This is almost an hour old. The bugs still haven’t found Arundhati,” 
Greta answered anxiously. “Doctor St. Gall says he doesn’t know a thing. 
He traded library for shuttle, and isn’t liable for anything before today. 

“What a sleaze!” she complained. “You’d have to work to keep as igno- 
rant as he claims to be. They’ve questioned a Blue fan named Jono 
Quacksalver. He’s the only one who hasn’t shut tight as a clam. He says 
Arundhati went off with Bai. At least the man sounds like Bai from 
Jono’s description.” 

Marshal Mendieta paced a tight circle. “They’ve got nerve, asking us 
for help after fouling up everything with their raid!” he said. “They 
should have guessed Lester had radar. A shuttle, for God’s sake! The 
place is an unlicensed LTO!” 

“It appears to be an unlicensed everything,” Greta said. “Bodyswap- 
ping, drugs . . .” 

“And the bugs are going to leave all that nicely in place, and tootle 
off. We should make them pay. Conscript a few deputies as long as they’re 
on site. Otherwise me and my marshals will have to clean it up by 
ourselves.” 

Greta looked at Yossi, her eyes welling with tears. “I sent Arundhati. 
She came here in mental distress and I sent her anyway. That’s her khod 
in front.” 

“Are we still on live connect? Ask the bugs where the shuttle’s going,” 
Yossi responded. 

Greta picked up the mike. “Hello-hello! Arrhenius to Sister Su, can 
you make out the shuttle’s destination? Hit me.” 

“Copy you, Greta. They do not have orbital velocity. They’ve peaked out 
of the atmosphere, and are beginning re-entry. We estimate latitude two 
six nine, twelve degrees north, but that’s suicide. They’ve got some trick 
they’ll pull once they get under cloud cover.” 

“Why is it suicide? Hit me.” 

“It’s the middle of Isidis.” Sister Su answered. “The molten sea. We’re 
looking for further engine firing, the sooner the better. If they don’t alter 
course before they hit the cloud deck, it’ll take a miracle. 

"On the other hand, Lester seems capable of miracles. Please, can you 
okay our requisition of at least one khod? Otherwise we have to leave here 
on foot, eating solar energy. Nobody’s cooperating for love or money. These 
Blue fans resent us dropping in.” 

“They aren’t the only ones! Use the khod Arundhati rode in on. If the 
driver makes trouble — oh, I don’t know. Do it anyhow. Over.” 

Yossi grabbed the mike out of Greta’s hand. “Yossi Jardac here. Meet 
with me at minus thirty latitude, two forty longitude. Do you copy? We’re 


280 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


taking a khod up from Arrhenius. We want to meet you. You’re heading 
for Isidis, aren’t you?” 

“We’ve no other choice. It’s not like we feel any enthusiasm for the place. 
Lester’s leading us around by the nose.” 

“That’s why we need to meet and talk, without radio waves rippling 
out everywhere. See, I’ve got an idea.” 

Four hundred forty kloms meant eighteen hours on the trail, plus a 
couple getting started. By trading shifts with their snomo driver, Yossi 
and Mendieta (separated now from his squad) reached the rendezvous 
forty minutes ahead of the bugs. Yossi climbed down into afternoon 
sunlight, and began to dig. 

Water welled into his pit. He cupped his hands, and took a drink. Black 
fruit hung from a nearby bush; Black for Hassan. Hassan had been 
contagious with God, the first to urge his friends on the quest for the 
Garden of Eden. Six searchers, six colors, six different souls. Marshal 
Mendieta went over and harvested a fruit. Black was one of the colors 
norms would eat. 

The bug khod wheeled up. Sister Su clattered down. She beetled close 
on her six legs. “Yossi Jardac? We spoke earlier.” 

“And I was obscure. But by now you’ve probably outpaced me. Am I 
right?” 

“You have a theory about Isidis?” the bug asked hesitantly. “You are 
correct that fragments of planetary crust are lighter than magma. Even 
after being shattered, they’d tend to float like — like — ” 

“Like rafts. Lester and Bai must have sent a scout. They found an 
island surrounded by lava, and planted a beeper to guide their shuttle. 
Our ordeal isn’t over, because it’s obvious they had time to prepare. They 
might have brought in enough gear to let Lester open his dimensional 
doors. Besides, there’s a hostage named Arundhati.” 

Sister Su straightened her joints and telescoped high, a meter above 
the sand. She oriented her solar wings to bask in the sunlight. “We could 
laserlaunch, but never blindly into a lava sea.” 

“No need,” Yossi answered. “We’re going to sail that sea on our own 
little hunk of crust. We’ll start from the west, and build a whopping big 
sail, and use the prevailing wind. 

“We can ride on molten currents. I’ve seen videos — they flow like lava 
rivers. Your team can rig a series of bombs. Whenever we need to goose 
our raft in one direction or the other, you can chuck one over the edge. 
But let’s just us do this. You know norms. Their Planetary Management 
Committee will slow us down, talking money and politics and safety. It’ll 
be a hassle pushing rock through stuff like molasses, without all that.” 

Sister Su raised two appendages in a gesture of what-can-we-do? “Ac- 
cording to treaty. Mars isn’t for bugs to play with. Just the top of Olympus 
Mons. The rest belongs to you wetbrains. We’re in enough political trou- 
ble from our raid.” 

“Yeah, but this is my idea. I’m raft pilot, and you can work for me. I’m 
organic. I’ll be the one people fuss at.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


281 


-4/16 Braho 38- 


Happy Hollow was three kloms by six. Lava had hardened around the 
edges in sticky layers that built up into ridges, so rainwater had no exit, 
and pooled inside to make a little lake. Vegetation prospered, a green 
jungle. Anoxic gasses from the molten sea swirled densely, making it 
necessary to breathe through airsnoods, like back before the third inter- 
cometary. The vapors meant there were no animals, and almost no in- 
sects. 

The island was hot. Bai shed his clothes and went naked, except for 
his snood. He planted fruit seeds, but though fruit bushes grew every- 
where else on Mars, no matter how high or cold, they didn’t sprout here. 

Lester stayed in the shack, working. Presumably Arundhati’s tiepatch 
was in with him, because it wasn’t on the gutted shuttle. 

Arundhati spent her days walking around the island, a course she 
estimated at twenty kloms. She built up to it over the first week, and ate 
sparingly, uninspired by the camp’s three year supply of TotiNutritional 
Falofino — “The Powder of 1,001 Uses.” Lisbet’s fat melted off. 

Soon her clothes were too big. She made alterations. Bai followed her 
with his eyes, seeing more and more of her. When they met, he made it 
seem like an accident, but accidents were frequent. “You don’t appear to 
be prospering,” he complained this latest time. 

“You like me buxom and pillowy, but I don’t,” Arundhati answered. 

“I’d somehow expected we’d enjoy this lotus-land more in each other’s 
company,” Bai said. “Mists like a Chinese painting. Our own small lake. 
Trees. Nothing to do. And you to make it perfect.” 

“You kill people.” Arundhati frowned, trying to remember the name 
Greta told her. “Hasday Ghazzabi.” 

“Never happened. I gave him a tranquilizer and tumbled him in with 
some snomos. There’s this guy: Yossi Jardac keeps making noise, but it’s 
all coaching. He’s told what to say by his norm puppet masters, and they 
take orders from UNETAO. Collaborators, keeping Mars under a colonial 
administration.” 

Arundhati felt off-balance. Bai’s view of events didn’t reconcile with 
anything, but his personal universe seemed all too plausible. It was 
frighteningly easy to believe that UNETAO was evil and employed lack- 
eys and conspirators. Someone was lying, but who? 

She persisted: “What about me? You sweet-talked Lisbet Hume into 
trying to kill Morse Bragolio. She screwed up, and here I am.” 

Bai shrugged. “Lisbet was her own woman, and not very good at any- 
thing.” 

Arundhati reverted to Hasday. “Why even drug that guy?” 

“There’s reasons, that’s all. I could get used to your new body. The 
dark hair, too. You’re very pretty.” 

“Why don’t you rape me?” 

“Do you want me to?” Bai asked. 

“No.” 


282 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


“I’m not the villain you think I am,” Bai continued. “There are no 
villains, and maybe no victims either. That’s the cosmic irony. God has 
his place for us all. We’re none of us too small for him, because great 
things come out of tiny planets and tiny sapient species. What Lester’s 
doing is a great thing.” 

“You can’t do great things in a tin shack,” Arundhati scoffed. “The age 
of tinker-physicists is over, and you’re a funny one to talk about God.” 

“Hardly.” Bai smiled a twisted smile. “I eat Blue. I travel Gisborne’s 
road, disgrace before salvation. Who among his pals had the best chance 
of meeting God? Black Hassan? White Joyce? Anybody but Gisborne, 
right? But Gisborne did it. And I ate that fruit, a fruit so rare a few early 
seedlings paid for an entire shuttle!” 

“You — you — ” Arundhati backed away a step. 

“God didn’t drive me mad. I survived and told Lester. I suspect it added 
to his motivation, to have me witness the good news.” 

“God wouldn’t bless you or any Blue,” Arundhati said. 

“Don’t I make a good prodigal son?” Bai answered. “The lamb that was 
lost? No, it’s not fair. Clod isn’t fair. God’s better than fair.” 

Arundhati shook her head. “It’s not real. Chemical cues in fruit, vec- 
tored to your brain by nanocytes in your bloodstream. You saw a repre- 
sentation of God, the best image ever. But not God himself” 

Bai shrugged. “You’re right, no matter how I glowed afterward. The 
real thing would drive me insane, or make me perfect. But — dammit. I’m 
crying. Whatever you say. I’m happy for Gisborne, because he made it, 
and if he could make it anyone can!” 

Arundhati relented and moved close. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you 
could be like this. I still remember you wearing that gun.” 

“That’s all behind me. I’ve thrown my gun away. My job is done. When 
Lester’s finished Mars will have something it doesn’t need to beg from 
UNETAO. Freedom will follow.” Bai held out his hand and Arundhati 
took it. “I’m a new man now,” he said, “and you’re a new woman.” 

From that day Arundhati hiked rarely. She had other things to do, the 
fascinations of a man’s mind to explore. She thought of Greta less and 
less often, and of the outside Mars that Greta represented. Merely by 
chance she circled the island one Wednesday halfway through Cerenko. 
She saw a big square blotch to her west, where she’d never seen a blotch 
before. She told Bai about it. He went to pound on the door of Lester’s 
shack. 

The shockley squinted out into thickening mist. A fresh sheet of rain 
veiled everything, steaming up when it hit lava. “What do you suppose? 
Before next morning?” he asked. 

Bai sighed. “You don’t have to blow everything up. I hate to see that.” 

“Ah, but I’m crazy, yes? I’ve gotten their messages for more than a 
week. We knew the day would come. Let’s give them the triumph they’re 
working for, and then UNETAO will fall back asleep.” 

Bai choked on words he couldn’t speak. Then, finally: “I’ll take Arund- 
hati. We’ll go to the far end. We’ll start at midnight.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


283 


“They’ll arrest you, Bai.” 

“One man’s word against mine,” the tuber answered. “I’ll face that 
risk. I can still do some good in this world.” 

“Yes. The fix I’m in is just big enough for one,” Lester answered. “Well, 
then. Music? Wine? A last party? I was never good at these things. 
Ceremonies and such.” 

“Come,” Arundhati said. “I’ll cook and Bai can open the bottles.” 

The party lasted late, and Arundhati poured generous cups for both 
the men. Their conversation grew sodden and philosophical. “Science 
had its eight hundred years, and who cares anymore? We live surrounded 
by the luxuries science made possible, on a world science gave us, and 
now things have come to such a state — ” 

Lester stopped to sip, and Bai spoke up. “Human science is dying. 
Fettered as it is, sure it’s dying. Why spend years in the flesh learning 
stuff like math? We’re just the larval stage, but thanks to science we can 
live again as bugs when our bodies crap out, and those are the guys 
who’ll take over. They already have.” 

“Bug research. Good work, but they don’t apply it. It doesn’t get trans- 
lated into engineering.” Lester hiccupped and went on: “I can explain 
that too. Science is dying, but engineering is already dead. It’s centuries 
of accumulated software nobody’s smart enough to modify. If you earn a 
degree by learning all that software, the last thing you want to do is 
explore the dark places where it doesn’t work.” 

They spoke morosely, like Romans toasting the collapse of their em- 
pire. The scene was lit by sky-glow from the lowering clouds; red and 
gold reflections of the lava sea. Gasses breached with explosive force, 
sending up geysers of flame. It was all very familiar. Why should it end? 
Why should Lester be pressed to kill himself? Such a senseless death! 

Arundhati excused herself as if to visit the bushes, and snuck up to 
Lester’s shack. She crept inside, into a darkness barely relieved by status 
displays of glowing blue and amber. If only she could find her tiepatch . . . 

Outside, the sky darkened with imminent rain. Lightning flashed out 
the window. In the sudden light she saw what she was looking for. She 
reached — 

“What are you doing?” Bai asked from behind. 

Arundhati turned to see him in the doorway. “I’m going to call who- 
ever’s coming. I want to tell them to stay away. They don’t know they’re 
killing Lester. They won’t expect that, and it isn’t fair to make them 
murderers. I like Lester — I know that sounds weird, but I’ve had training 
in liking shockleys. The whole situation is just unnecessary!” 

“What do you mean?” Bai asked. He stepped in, and took the tiepatch 
out of her hands. “Why unnecessary?” 

“Lester isn’t doing anything here! He’s just wasting time! Can’t you 
see? I was trained to work with his brother Morse, and keep an eye on 
him. It’s obvious to me. This is bells and whistles. Cosmic research in a 
dippy little shack — maybe it’s enough to fool the average tuber, but not 


284 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


someone with a scientific background. I’m sorry, Bai. I wouldn’t destroy 
your illusions for anything less, but a man’s life is at stake!” 

Bai paled. “Oh God no,” He whispered. “You — ^you — I have to go. I 
have to do something.” He took her by the shoulders. “Can you wait right 
here? Stay by the shack, it’ll only be five minutes. Just stay!” 

Arundhati nodded and he plunged off into the night. She stepped out- 
doors to enjoy the first fat drops of warm rain. She pondered: where was 
Bai off to? A minute went by, and she decided to follow. 

His direction led to the shuttle, a squat shape stained with green. 
Arundhati saw Bai digging furiously, and held back. Why shouldn’t she 
see this? 

He pulled up a bundle, and folded it open, and pulled out his gun. 
Arundhati’s eyes widened. She stepped aside carefully, working away 
from the path she was on. 

She glanced again, to see him loading a clip. And then he started back 
to the shack. 

Oh, Bai! She couldn’t run so far that she’d not be able to ask questions 
from the dark, or witness the deed that would make sense of it all. But 
yes, a little farther in an unpredictable direction would be wise. 

“Arundhati?” Bai called from out of view. “Where’d you go? Where are 
you?” 

“Why the gun?" she shouted back. 

Bai started for her. She heard him beat into the brush. “Arundhati?” 

Her legs sprang into action. Branches lashed her as she fought away 
from the camp, and down closer to the water. The ground under her feet 
felt slick and squishy. 

*bang* 

She dropped and froze. Lightning split the sky. “You can’t know what 
you said about the Director’s work,” Bai shouted. “It’s not true!” 

He waited, as if hoping she’d answer. — So he can find me from the 
direction of my voice! She’d already made that mistake. Arundhati crept 
on, slowly and carefully. The rain beat down, but not so much here where 
the bushy cover protected her. She knew when she reached an open gap, 
because suddenly she was drenched. 

“This is tragic, you know?” Bai called. “You’re the last person on Mars 
I’d ever want to kill. And now I have to. I’d like to tell you why, too! Only 
I can’t!” 

Why? Arundhati wanted badly to know. How could this man betray 
her love? Lester was a fake, Lester was a fraud — but why did this knowl- 
edge doom her? 

“Lester really liked you!” Bai’s voice was perilously close. Another 
lightning bolt showed him standing twenty meters distant, facing away 
at an angle. 

It also showed her, all too clearly. Arundhati rose and scrambled away. 
Bai turned at the sound, and fired: 

*bang* 

She dropped, groaning with despair, half-paralyzed with terror as she 

THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 285 


heard his footsteps. “If you beg, I might not be able to kill you,” he said, 
his voice catching on the words. “Please beg. Promise me — promise — ” 
“I won’t tell,” Arundhati whispered. “Oh God, I’m begging. Whatever 
you want. I’ll do it. Don’t kill me!” She rolled over, and clawed up his 
legs, and bent her head into his knees. 

She heard him click the safety. On? Off? She surged up, and tore at 
him, and fought for her life with every last bit of strength; fought wildly, 
nothing more than an animal. Bai struggled to contain her. 

The world lit up. An explosion breached the night: the noise was unbe- 
lievable, a force in itself Some impact made Bai go feeble, his back to 
flame and shrapnel. He recovered after a moment, wild as never before. 
His arms swung in fury, pummeling her to the ground, but now Arund- 
hati had the gun. 

Bang. Bang. 


-4/16 Cerenko 22- 

Yossi stared toward the island. “That’s not the usual thing, is it?” he 
asked Sister Su, pointing to the explosion. “It doesn’t seem like a magma 
bolus.” 

“We’re at two sixty-nine and twelve degrees north,” the bug answered. 
“Our target zone. We’ll know in the morning. I hoped if that were our 
prey they’d respond to our signals, but they seem resolved on some other 
action.” 

“If it’s them.” Yossi turned to gaze at the square half-klom of aircraft 
weave looming behind them. “Stars” shone through the sail after each 
flash of lightning, bits of sky glinting through holes burnt in the flame- 
proof fiber by weeks of molten shrapnel. Splatter accretions hung heavy 
on the stays. 

Their raft wouldn’t serve much longer at this rate. Not all the way 
across Isidis. But that was all right if they’d reached Lester’s island. 
Yossi felt confident .... Yes. Those flames ahead were different. Burning 
vegetation, sparking red, a galaxy of smothered fires winking out from 
the lack of oxygen. 

So near! Only a klom! Six hours and they’d be there! 

Time passed, and the sea became a strait. Lava wrinkled up like the 
skin of an ancient elephant. Sister Su’s bugs hopped across. Yossi waited 
as a new day dawned, the wrong person in the wrong kind of body, 
useless in this moment of climax. He paced the bunker, praying to a God 
he didn’t believe in. Ten ghastly minutes went by. Then the bugs made 
several reports: one woman in a state of shock, minor abrasions, other- 
wise okay. Bai Shan? Dead. 

Lester? Lost in the explosion. The woman agreed: he’d meant to die. 
The bugs took time to make sure, beetling around in elaborate search 
patterns, sniffing and probing. Yossi’s relief wore off. Death was death, 
and what goals lay in his future to compare with this one? 


286 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


He tiepatched their coordinates — his island and hers — to Marshal 
Mendieta a hundred kloms away. The security hopper dropped on Happy 
Hollow fifteen minutes later, before plucking him off the Vulcan. Yossi 
found a crash seat and strapped in. He pulled down his snood. “Hi, we 
haven’t met. I’m Yossi Jardac.” 

She let him shake her hand. “Arundhati,” she responded. Moments 
later the hopper roared off into the turbulent skies, amber with strange 
gasses, then clear and bright. Home again. No, the magic of Isidis was 
change and transformation. This was a new Mars, a world made for new 
people. Things could never be the same. 

First they rode the hopper, then both the hopper and its passengers 
took a short khod ride. Arundhati napp^: she was oblivious to Yossi’s 
curiosity and felt no pressure to talk about her last seven weeks. Later 
that day the westbound MarsBelt train stopped at their summons, not 
without a great deal of complaint. Emergency? What emergency? “If it’s 
true, we’ll send a special train.” 

“But you’ve got room on this one!” They proved that, finding the first 
floor of the lead car practically empty, with several open compartments. 
Su’s bugs took up sentry posts, discouraging passengers up in the gondola 
from coming downstairs. Marshal Mendieta went to argue with the con- 
ductor, and the engine began to move. 

Twenty minutes after he left, Arundhati jerked into life. “Oh!” She 
reached into her wardrobe bundle, pawed through it in agitation, and 
pulled out a cassette. 

“Hasday’s soul,” she said, flopping back in relief. “I found it on the 
shuttle. Bai must have left it there so it would survive the blast.” 

Yossi passed it to Sister Su. “So he’s that much less a murderer. They 
must have recorded Hasday back at Gledhill, knowing what they were 
going to do.” He looked at Arundhati curiously. 

She stared back. “Hug me,” she said. “I need a human touch. I’ve lost 
ever3dhing. Just don’t talk. I don’t want to hear about evils and threats. 
I want to be rich, and eat happytime White, and lose my mind.” At 
Yossi’s embrace she broke down and started to cry. 

Su made a tentative gesture. “You’re going to meet people at Four- 
nier,” she warned. “They’ll take you off and ask a lot of questions. Then 
there’s the press, because your rescue is big news, lady. They’ll be waiting 
for their turn. Are you ready for that?” 

Arundhati stiffened. She looked at Yossi in panic. “You’ve got to help 
me. Can we dodge them all? Can we get on the train to Hellas Bay?” 

“Why?” Yossi asked. 

Arundhati stared forward into Su’s eye-lens. “Bai Shan deserved his 
death. He was scum, with a good line of patter. I thought I knew him, 
but last night erased everything. Except sometimes I wonder if he was 
a martyr, and what does that make me?” 

She turned back to Yossi. “I can’t stop going in circles, but whether he 
was good or bad, he died for a cause. It’s up to us whether he died in 
vain.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


287 


I “But he did. He died before their job was done,” Yossi said, trying to 
be gentle. “That was the point of everything we . . . Su? There wasn’t 
anything on that island. And nothing back at Plotwitt’s Library.” 

Sister Su made no answer. Yossi grunted as an idea struck home. 
“Back when Morse landed and you were murdered, there was a gap, 
right?” 

“About an hour,” Arundhati agreed. “Until the second shuttle came 
in, my old boss was on his own.” 

Again Yossi looked at Su, but the bug gave no clue to her thinking. 
“Okay,” he went on. “For an hour your shockley didn’t have a keeper, 
and it only takes twenty minutes to transfer a soul.” 

“Lester’s soul,” Arundhati agreed. “I had all last night to figure it out. 
While one Lester was hopping around Mars pretending to be a big threat, 
the other settled in at Gledhill to continue his work in Morse’s body 
without any norm supervision.” 

Arundhati sighed, and went on. “Bai meant to surrender today. UNE- 
TAO was supposed to go to sleep after the blowup — only I’d never keep 
my big mouth shut. Bai had to kill me after I told him Lester’s work was 
a charade. Same reason he killed Hasday. Hasday couldn’t be fooled, and 
some truths mustn’t go public.” 

“Except you killed Bai instead,” Yossi said. “ — In pure self-defense.” 
Arundhati shuddered in his embrace. He clutched her all the more 
tightly. 

“Bai was stalling for time,” Sister Su elaborated. “He couldn’t know if 
the Gledhill work was done. Everything was forfeit if you broadcast the 
truth an hour too early.” 

“Yes,” Arundhati whispered. “He had to buy time, an unknown 
amount of time, or there’d be no miracle. A good miracle, or a bad one? 
The norms will say no miracle at all. I don’t think they deserve to judge 
that. I think I do. And you, Yossi — ^you deserve a voice. I want you to 
help me.” 

“ — Against the wise protectors of my world. My sister and my friend,” 
Yossi answered. You can’t trust a tuber, he should have told them years 
ago. He paused to contemplate doom, then spoke again, not willing to 
add to the miseries of this woman in his arms. “If we can get to the Tipsy 
Witch, we’re home free. It’s everything between that’ll be hard.” Again 
he frowned. “Trains have emergency suits, don’t they?” 

“Electric blue-green,” Su said. “She’d stand out. You too. Are you 
thinking of jumping the train short of Fournier?” 

“A klom or two out,” Yossi answered, wondering where Su stood in all 
this. “It’ll be night. Warm equatorial night, zero at the coldest. We’ll 
hike, then wait for the train to Hellas, heading into a much colder zone, 
with no idea whether we can hop on or not. Often there’s one passenger 
car, but sometimes not even that. Somebody talk me out of this. Please 
Su, is this crazy?” 

“Is foamstone warm when it comes out of the factory?” Arundhati 
asked. 


288 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Yossi did a double-take. “Who told you about foamstone?” 

“I had to scrounge a train for Morse. We took second place to ten 
cars of foamstone,” she answered. “I heard a door slam. Is that Marshal 
Mendieta?” 

Yossi peeked out. “Yeah. How do we get rid of him?” 

The norm marshal reached the compartment door and pulled it open. 
He stepped in and sat opposite Sister Su. The door closed again, and he 
slumped over. 

Su found him a pillow. “Darts,” the bug explained. “Perfect low-mass 
bug weapon. He’ll be sedated for a couple hours. Now you’d better find 
out if these car really have emergency weather-suits.” 

“Not yet. We don’t want to set off alarms this long before we jump,” 
Yossi said. 

“What do you mean, long? Twenty more minutes, and it’ll take five 
minutes to dress,” Su responded. 

“We’ll dress outside,” Yossi went on. “In the cold. Lord bloody hay- 
sause, talk about stupid! Randolph will never believe I did this. What a 
dumb tuber stunt.” 

“Don’t trash us tubers,” Arundhati said. She bent and looked out the 
window. Mendieta lay sprawled to her left, a small needle in his cheek. 
She focused away from him in embarrassment — he was totally defense- 
less, more naked than if he were naked in the flesh. “I don’t see anything 
yet. Just fields and bush and black hills.” 

“Fournier hardly looks like anything. The LTO is pavement and a 
gantry and a couple buildings. The industrial igloos are west of the 
arcopolis, and the arcopolis bubble is almost flush with the ground.” 
Yossi turned. “Su? You have this timed. Tell us when to start.” 

“The suits are overhead. I figure twenty seconds out. Wait, I’ll do the 
countdown.” 

She did. After fifteen minutes she said “Now!” 

Yossi and Arundhati reached up. The emergency covers opened and 
clattered to the floor. Wrinkled suits tumbled down, filling the space like 
cocoons. “I don’t hear anything,” Arundhati said. 

“No sirens. Could we be so lucky?” Yossi tore the hood free and rolled 
the suit up under his arm. He banged out the compartment door, held it 
for Arundhati, and they hurried to the end of the coach. 

The space between cars was noisy with the shrieks and bumps of 
deceleration. Su scuttled into the step-down, forced the door, and wound 
a few legs around the outside bar grip. At last they heard klaxons. “Men 
first,” Arundhati said. Yossi looked out, then back at her. He muttered 
under his breath and jumped. 

He tumbled, stood up in a ditch, and scrambled forward. One — two — 
coaches trundled by, and then no more train. Where was Arundhati? 

Up ahead, Su at her side. She was hopping on one leg . . . ah, yes. 
Climbing into her thermals. This was still a discreet distance, so Yossi 
stripped and dressed in the manner dictated by some MarsBelt vice 
president sixteen years ago. 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


289 


Back then, airsnoods were used more for air than warmth. People still 
thought in terms of the third intercometary. This thing was heavy with 
fancy gear, a luxury relic. Yossi put it on anyhow. He shuffled up the 
tracks, his former clothes rolled up tightly. 

“Now what?” Arundhati asked. 

“Any injuries?” Yossi policed the area and picked up her discarded 
clothes. 

She raised her eyes to heaven. “Beyond counting. Where do we go?” 

Yossi pointed off to the southwest. They made straight for the near 
bluff, and found the landscape flat once they climbed to the top. Fournier 
the crater rose steeply to their left, but Fournier the city was laid out 
like a map on edge. They hurried forward to the next feature, a cluster 
of tanks against a long fence. 

Yossi stopped to catch his breath. “Think what snomos would say! 
Thousands of people, but nobody in sight. The indoor mentality.” 

“It’s pretty late in the evening,” Arundhati answered. 

“Yeah. Let’s scoot.” 

As their distance from the first tracks increased, they felt less furtive, 
until Su spoke: “Well, by now they know we’re missing. Maybe Lester’s 
come back from the dead to kidnap us, huh?” 

“They won’t think we’re off to Hellas,” Arundhati said. 

“They aren’t stupid,” Yossi responded. “They’ll figure your old Lester 
was a red herring, and draw the right conclusions. But let’s hope it takes 
them at least sixteen hours. Let’s hope they scatter their wits trying to 
figure out what we’re up to, and lose sleep, and make a few mistakes.” 

“When are we going to get to those other tracks?” Arundhati asked. 

“I can’t call up a map on my tiepatch without interacting with some 
central computer,” Yossi said. “Let’s not risk it. We won’t miss them. 
Let’s cut west for a while.” 

They did, fighting gusts of wind that carried grit and sand. They took 
almost an hour to reach their goal. “If we’re out too far the train will roll 
too fast for us to catch a ride,” Arundhati worried. To please her they 
hiked inward until they came to a switch-box. It was just the size for the 
three to hide behind. 

Yossi shook his head. “They’ve got spy satellites, and we’ve got this.” 

“Yossi?” Arundhati asked. 

“Yes?” 

“Why are you helping me? I didn’t need to argue with you, or any- 
thing.” 

Yossi pulled down his snood. “You weren’t in any shape to argue. You 
didn’t have the energy. I had to say yes or no, and saying yes brought 
you back to life.” 

Arundhati blushed. “You’re a saint.” 

“I’m a bird, free of my cage. That happened at Arrhenius, the night 
you flew from Plotwitt’s Library, when for the first time in my life I saw 
norms really fuck up. Somebody had to pick up the pieces, \^^at do you 
know? It wasn’t Greta. It wasn’t Marshall Mendieta. It was me!” 


290 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Yossi mustered himself. “Since then, it’s been you. I’m a Green fruit 
fan. Pavel yearns for his unseen Red Antonia, not even a physical pas- 
sion; more an idea that she’s central to everything. I’m used to putting 
women on that pedestal. All these weeks I had your picture to moon at. 
You were my Antonia, but don’t let that scare you. I hadn’t even met 
you yet!” 

“It scares me. My last love was like you. Bai loved me first, and I 
became real to him second. He made the crossing to reality. A rare man.” 
Arundhati shrugged. “Some men won’t let women become real. Romance 
is dangerous.” 

“Is that our train?” Sister Su asked. “That headlight down the track?” 

“If it’s got hopper cars, yes,” Yossi answered. “Let’s keep hunkered 
until the engine gets by.” 

They did, and then ran out. Su leapt overhead to clutch a handbar, 
and stretched out her legs. She hauled Yossi and Arundhati into her 
metal-and-hinges embrace. 

They climbed up, Yossi in the lead. Balancing on the edge of the 
hopper, he tossed in something from his bundle of clothes. He pulled 
down his snood. “Smell anything?” 

“What?” 

“Smell! The smell!” He shouted louder. “It hasn’t singed the cloth quite 
yet, but it might melt this blue plastic. Feel the heat!” 

Arundhati climbed and stared in at the neat stacks of foamstone. “We’ll 
have to spend the night perched like this.” 

“Yeah. A middle ground between one twenty above, and sixty below!” 
Yossi grinned. “It’ll cool! This stuff is less than a day old. Its temperature 
vector is a big downward slope.” 

“I feel pretty damn obvious sitting here. Exposed as hell!” Arundhati 
complained. 

“Let’s hope nobody’s looking.” 

They rode on, shifting, their silence increasingly grim. The landscape 
grew white, the air ultra-clear, except where it rippled back from the 
leading hoppers. 

Yossi tossed in his bundle of clothes. He unrolled it with his toe. “Try 
slipping down. Let it toast you for a few minutes, and I’ll pull you up 
again.” 

Arundhati used the rags to buffer her weather-boots. After a time they 
switched places. It got colder on the edge, and eventually they both 
decided to cook together, unzipping, shifting foot to foot, flapping their 
loose coats. 

After a while they didn’t have to do the dance anymore. Life was 
slightly less a nightmare. 

“Yossi! Arundhati! Wake up!” 

Yossi stirred at Su’s summons, rising to peer over the hopper-car’s 
high ledge. “We’ve stopped. Hellas!” 

“We made it!” Arundhati stretched out her hands to Su, and got pulled 

THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 291 


up to where she could swing a leg over. She jumped to the ground. “Oh 
Lisbet, look at yourself now!” 

Yossi followed. They spent a few minutes crossing the railyard’s per- 
mafrost: the ground was still crunchy this early in the morning. “No 
fences around here,” he said. “People are honest.” 

He was proven wrong. Holes had been augured, permafrost-posts 
dropped loosely, and fencewire lay on the ground in rolls. They crossed 
to some khod tracks. 

Yossi pointed. “That’s Randolph’s tower. We can’t go there. We could 
sleep in the Dimetown ring. The clerks are discreet about couples. But I 
don’t dare use my card, and it costs seventy cash. I’m not carrying that 
much paper.” 

“Don’t you have a house? Some kind of unit?” Su asked, fluttering out 
her solar wings. 

“No, I sleep at the Chapterhouse, but lots of people know me there,” 
Yossi said. “No way to keep secret. I’d just have to trust them. Damn! If 
only we could head straight for the Tipsy Witch, but she’s out fishing by 
now.” 

“We can’t stand here, wearing these emergency colors,” Arundhati 
pointed out. 

“Yeah. Oh hell, the Chapterhouse is right on the way. Let’s give it a 
try. We’re the good guys. God should be on our side.” 

“Do they serve hot food? I don’t ever want to be this tired and cold and 
hungry again!” Arundhati said. “Not mention thirsty.” 

“We’ll manage,” Yossi promised. “And maybe we can catch up on a 
month of news.” By this time he’d begun to grow embarrassed. What a 
cheap life he’d lived, on the fringes of an urban cancer that didn’t even 
have a name! 

They walked, and their trail converged with another. This was Heluj- 
on-Dimetown, those were greenhouses, those other things were tanks. 
Igloos and khods. Surely people would build more attractively after the 
next comets! This age could leave dreams as well as ruins. We’ve only got 
thirty-three years, but they’ll have a hundred seventy-ninel 

“You seem subdued,” Arundhati said. 

“I’m looking at my life through your point of view, and not seeing 
much,” Yossi admitted. 

“But we’ll have stories to tell after this, won’t we?” Her eyes twinkled. 
Yossi had never seen that before. Shock and fatigue, yes, poor woman; 
but never a smile. 

Their route brought them uphill to Radio Ridge. They saved their 
energy for the climb, and saw the Chapterhouse igloo at the crest. In 
another ten minutes they were there. Oh nine thirty-five. 

The porter fussed over Yossi’s long absence. It pleased him that some- 
one noticed, someone who called him “Captain Jardac” in front of the 
others. Yossi slipped him an extra-large tip. “Can you sneak these guests 
in until Cal gets back with my ship? and feed them some breakfast 
leftovers?” 


292 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


“Sure, Captain. But I don’t think Cal took the Witch out today. Tues- 
day’s his day off.” 

Yossi’s eyes widened. “Bloody haysause! Not by a damned sight! Not 
on any contract I ever signed with him! God — !” Suddenly his flush of 
anger became a glow of relief “Hey, this is going to work out great! 
Arundhati, let’s get some grub and hoof it out of here!” 

The “grub” was cold and greasy and Arundhati thought it was marvel- 
ous; real food, not made from Falofino powder! They ate fast. After an- 
other flfteen minutes, the three hurried down Drumlin Avenue to the 
dock. 

Yossi couldn’t keep from running ahead. By the time Arundhati and 
Su caught up, he was swearing his head off, bounding from one end of 
the ship to the other. “I’ll follow you into the pilothouse in a minute!” he 
called, pointing the direction. 

Arundhati led the way. She stepped inside and looked around. “Let’s 
clean in here before Yossi sees and has a heart attack,” she said. 

The Tipsy Witch became a living ship, and forty minutes later they 
cast off. 

“Yossi? Randolph here. Is that you? It must be. Who else would your 
ship obey? Cal’s here, and he’s talking piracy, but I don’t think that’s true, 
I think it’s you. This is a closed-beam call, so please tell me what the hell 
is going on! Hit me!” 

Yossi keyed in “MAINTAIN RADIO SILENCE,” and turned to Su. 
“Should we answer?” 

“Heaven knows how they found our blip,” the bug said. “Those spy 
satellites are getting better.” She paused. “We’re close to Gledhill, and 
your norms have only to connect you with this place and they’ll draw 
the right conclusion about Morse being Lester.” 

“They’ve got to know already,” Arundhati spoke. She came forward 
out of the galley, carrying a bowl of hot soup. “It’s all up. The game’s 
over. All we can do is beg.” 

“Yossi? Randolph Mbika calling Yossi Jardac — ” 

“Okay, okay! Ship, let me talk! Randolph, I’m here!” Yossi answered. 
“I’ve got something to do on Gledhill, and I’m asking you not to interfere 
with us. Give us twenty-four hours. Come on, let’s deal!” 

“Lester’s there, isn’t he?” Randolph said. “We’ve wiggled the story out 
of that dime woman; Emma Schalk. Morse got erased, and Lester is 
happily getting on with whatever he’s up to. What force can you bring to 
bear on him? He’s got you outgunned, and I hate to add up his crimes: 
he’ll stop at nothing.” 

“What are you going to do? Invade?” Yossi shook his head. “If it were 
that simple, Lester would never have gotten away from Plotwitt’s Li- 
brary.” 

“He doesn’t know we’re onto his game. We’ll arrange something. It may 
take a few days, though, and we want you out of there. You could blow 
the element of surprise. I’m sorry, Yossi. I hate to do this, but the bank 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


293 


has money in that ship, and Cal’s here to handle the remote steering. We’re 
going to invoke emergency preeminence. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have 
to. I know how you’ll feel about it. Over and out.” 

“What does he mean?” Su asked. 

“They’re going to take over the Tipsy Witch,” Yossi answered. He 
looked out the window. “They’ve done it already. Our engines have 
stopped.” 

“By radio?” 

Yossi shrugged. “Yeah. We’re a remote toy. Puppets in a toy ship, and 
Randolph’s so goddamn nice about it I can’t even feel properly violated! 
Damn his norm eyes, he’s worried about our safetyl” 

“Can’t we cut communication?” Arundhati asked. 

Yossi pointed to a floor panel. “You know how to rewire that cybernetic 
mare’s nest? Go ahead. I was never good at miracles.” 

Su pulled the panel off. “Well, it’s not simple .... what’s that?” She 
pointed to a crude whatnot wired out of odds and ends. 

“That’s something Hasday rigged to cut — ” Yossi’s eyes widened. “To 
cut the ship’s radio! Bloody haysause, I forgot about it! There’s a timer — ” 

“Just a spring. This ratchet puts pressure on it, and the spring fights 
it back over time. . . .” Su unscrewed two of her feet, popped on a set of 
needle-nose tools, and set to work. “There. Three notches up the ratchet 
scale. I hope that does it.” 

Yossi took the helm. “Tipsy? Talk to me, baby! Tell me you’re mine!” 

“All yours,” the ship answered. “Are we in voice mode?” she asked 
hopefully. “I’ve always wanted to go to voice mode.” 

“Yes. That’s a good girl, and I want top speed in toward Gledhill, just 
like before!” 

“Why does it look like a volcano?” Arundhati asked, staring out the 
window. 

“Or a giant power plant,” Yossi said. He frowned. “Mountains some- 
times trail clouds. I’ve seen videos of Olympus.” 

“Heat,” Su answered. “Steam roaring up! Look at the place!” 

“Look at the water,” Arundhati added. The Tipsy Witch cracked 
through the last big offshore slab, a low stretch of rotten yellow ice, and 
there was nothing beyond. Just choppy blue to the foaming base of the 
alam al-mithral. 

Gledhill Island’s alam al-mithral was pathetically shrunken, a dying 
ice barrier breached by countless gushing streams. Yossi scratched his 
head. “We’ll have to take the landing boat in. Oars, yet! Tipsy? Please 
start sequence D.” 

“D?” 

“That’s what I said.” 

The Tipsy Witch winched her captain’s dinghy out over the water. 
Yossi prepared for a new experience. The better part of an hour passed 
before the landing party got securely beached, their boat staked at a tilt 
on the edge of a small cold river. By then their leggings were soaked. A 


294 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


disaster, and hypothermia must follow; but it didn’t. The air was too 
mild. 

They slithered uphill like two drunks. Only Su was sure-footed. Yossi 
envied the bug’s extra legs. Finally he and Arundhati reached naked 
mud, and their progress was easier. 

Former paths were now open streams, but as they climbed the flows' 
dwindled. There was no more snow to melt, just a few patches. “Some- 
body’s changed the climate,” Arundhati gasped. She stopped to catch her 
breath. Uphill, near the greenhouses, two lab workers gazed down on 
them. They looked like Earth people on holiday, clad in slacks and cream- 
colored smocks, no weather-wear at all. The phenomenon of visitors had 
them talking to each other, but neither showed any alarm. 

The trio waved and puffed closer. “Hello! Saluton! Kiel vi far — ?” Yossi 
was disconcerted when his friendly greeting caused the two to collapse 
like sudden rag dolls. “What the hell?” 

Su took his arm and hurried them past. “That’s the entrance igloo. If 
no one saw my dart attack, we can speed through. Human security won’t 
be vigilant.” 

“Why not?” Arundhati asked. “And why — ?” 

“I take those two as evidence of what’s going on. There’s a Big-Success, - 
Let’s-Party atmosphere around here.” 

The igloo’s airlock was different from most. It bent to wrap the wall. 
They worked around to the door and clicked it open. Yossi and Arundhati 
felt Su push them inside. They hustled forward and waved at the ceiling 
camera. Halfway along, the wall hissed and the passage rippled and 
stretched. Time broke up into fragments; freeze shots of them reeling 
and choking. Then — nothing. 

Arundhati woke first. Her body was wedged in the inside door. A 
security guard lay slumped over her desk. A lab tech sprawled on the 
floor nearby. “Yossi!” she whispered urgently. She tried to get up. 
“Yossi!” 

“Uh.” 

“Su made it through!” She hadn’t meant to whisper, but her throat 
wasn’t working very well. She might try crawling, but then the door 
would shut on her companion. She wasn’t sure it would open again. 
“Yossi! Get moving!” 

He flopped forward. Together they made it into the main foyer. The 
place was meant to impress visitors: a showcase potted tree stood next 
to the fancy curved stairs. 

Stairs. Stairs were good. They could lie at a tilt. That made it easier 
to breathe. 

After a while, Arundhati thought she might stand up. “A one-bug 
war,” Yossi muttered. “We really should have asked why Su was coming 
along with us.” 

“Fastest way here,” Arundhati answered. “Your ship. No norms to veto 
anything.” 

“She can’t kidnap him. Humans can’t live near Su’s monastery. Air’s 
too thin,” Yossi said. “I like that.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


295 


“She could copy his soul.” Arundhati preferred that idea to simple 
murder. Was Lester still alive? She tried a tentative step. Could she 
reach the drinking fountain? 

She did. Yossi lurched to his feet. Together they entered a long passage, 
using the walls for support. The hall was lined with rooms where sedated 
employees snored at their desks. 

“It looks like Sister Su uses a longer-lasting drug than the security 
gas we got,” Arundhati decided. “Stairs or elevator?” 

“Elevator.” They got two choices, 2 and B. If this were like most labs, 
B was where the real work got done. 

They waited and rode down. Gledhill Island had contours, and though 
this was the basement, daylight shone through high windows along a 
passage whose door was wedged open by a wastebasket. Su might have 
left it this way, a possibility that confused Arundhati. Were they ex- 
pected to make a second wave attack? Should they have taken the secu- 
rity guard’s weapons? 

She shook her head and wished she hadn’t — her brains floated inside 
her skull. She was in no shape to attack anyone. Maybe all this wastebas- 
ket meant was that some desperately hot technicians had sabotaged their 
own security to increase the flow of air. 

Yossi and Arundhati walked into a wall of heat. They unzipped their 
weather suits and stumbled on, the temperature sapping what strength 
they had. A voice came over the intercom. “Stop right there. I pulsed 
your bug friend. I hope you don’t mean to take me on. You hardly look 
up to it.” 

“Lester?” Yossi asked. He ransacked his soul for the energy to keep 
speaking. He took a deep breath, and his heart pounded as his adrenalin 
cut in. “How would you like to hear about your other life? I can fill you 
in on the week from the second of Braho to the ninth. Arundhati knew 
you from the twenty-third until you sacrificed your life on Cerenko twen- 
ty-first.” 

No response. Yossi went on. “Arundhati grew to like you, Lester. She 
loved Bai Shan, and if he loved you that was good enough for her.” 

“Bai was — special,” Lester said. “No man had a truer friend.” 

“I wasn’t fond of the guy,” Yossi admitted. “Maybe you two rehearsed 
things, and you knew you’d need a ship. I was the captain, and he tried 
to put the screws to me.” 

“Keep talking.” 

Yossi looked back over his shoulder. “We’re no threat, and we don’t 
want to die. Su had her own ideas. She’s the bug you pulsed. We didn’t 
know she was going to run amok.” 

Arundhati spoke up: “Pulsed? I hope that word doesn’t mean what I 
think. No one should have to die anymore, not if your work is finished.” 

How would Lester respond to her veiled complaint? “Some of my em- 
ployees may abreact to the drug in her darts,” he answered. “I’ve got 
videotape to prove she fired at me, so I can plead self-defense. Human 
versus bug, but my weapon worked through glass, and hers didn’t. It was 


296 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


a close thing though, the scariest second of my existence. If I didn’t think 
life was valuable before, I’d certainly be convinced now. I regret more 
will die if the authorities of Mars launch a surprise attack on Gledhill.” 

“Not a surprise. You’re on your guard,” Arundhati said. “Why not call 
and tell them it’s finished? The game is done. This door into some hot 
new dimension — ” 

Lester laughed. “Come ahead. No, please: strip first. I want to make 
sure you aren’t carrying anything those tuber bodies weren’t bom with. 
Besides, it’s too hot for weather suits.” 

Yossi and Arundhati stripped, not much looking at each other. They 
tottered forward, down a ramp, and along a new corridor. 

It opened into a large space. Carpenters had removed the partition 
walls: modular panels lay neatly piled. The false ceiling was too low, and 
some of that had been removed too. Four large fans roared noisily, suck- 
ing air into outtake chimneys. The thing in the middle was a fat metal 
cylinder, pipes coiled around it. It curved in at the top like a bottle, with 
hoses leading out the top. 

Lester trotted toward them from the far side of the room, wearing 
absurdly colorful shorts and rubber flip-flops on his feet. The hair on his 
scrawny chest was as white as the tufts on his head. He held a gun, and 
gestured with it. 

“You know what they need to make fusion work?” he shouted over the 
noise. “A few hundred million degrees, concentrated in the middle of a 
vacuum bottle. If my vacuum were better it wouldn’t be so hot in here. 
You’re looking at something ten thousand times hotter than any fusion 
plant in the solar system! Hotter than the center of the sun!” 

“I don’t understand.” Arundhati felt the words dragged out of her. 

“There are precisely eighty-seven million, ninety-one thousand, and 
two hundred possible universes. I’ve tweaked through to eight with no 
results, using our dimension of time as one of the subject dimensions of 
space. Eight duds, cool and evolved, but this one is different! Exactly 
what do I have here, other than a speck ten to the minus twenty-seven 
centimeters across, smaller than any subatomic particle? The answer is: 
I don’t know.” 

Lester paused. His voice dropped as they took a few steps away from 
the noisy center of things. “I think it’s a Big Bang. I think I caused it. 
The heat of that explosion is spreading along three dimensions of space. 
One of those is identical to our dimension of time, and the rate of spread 
conforms to the pace of our own voyage into the future. Of course, it 
won’t always stay so hot. Already I’m measuring a decline. In a few 
hundred thousand years . . .” Lester shrugged. 

“You created a universe"^ Just to warm this island?” Yossi asked. 

“Oh, this bottle has lots of uses! This is just the beginning. How do the 
physical laws of alternate universes compare to ours? Can we develop 
translation protocols? The reason souls live as bugs after we die, is be- 
cause Lucian Fercho developed a translation protocol four Earth-centu- 
ries ago. You or I can’t go through a door into another universe, but with 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


297 


the proper protocols, we can create correlates of ourselves. I’m not young, 
but I might still be alive when that happens!” 

‘That won’t do you much good. Not if you hate God and want to escape 
his creation,” Yossi said. 

Lester grinned. “Did I pull that off? I was intent on playing up some 
theological lunacy. Bai put the idea in my head. Mad scientists! Blas- 
phemy! I really dished it out, eh?” 

Yossi burned red. “Damn you. I thought the reason I couldn’t under- 
stand your logic was that you were far beyond me. But it was just razzle- 
dazzle, to jerk me around on a string — ” 

“I’m sorry. Technically I’m guilty of everything the other Lester 
did — I’m his co-conspirator and beneficiary. I won’t be free much longer. 
If I call the authorities and surrender, I might not last the day.” 

The Shockley nodded toward his large metal “bottle.” “That’s the only 
reason I haven’t done it. I’d like to stretch this moment of triumph a bit 
longer. My brief day of happiness.” 

“And then what?” Yossi scanned the room. He lowered his voice. 
“Arundhati and I are probably in trouble ourselves. We’ve pissed off 
Marshall Mendieta.” 

“Not our fault. Su’s.” Arundhati pointed to the bug, who lay frozen, 
her legs folded in. Her voice was husky when she spoke again. “Su’s our 
excuse. Maybe Bai should take the blame for lots of what he did. Let 
Yossi and me tell the story, and find out how involved you are.” 

“Isidis is a planetary park,” Yossi said. “What you did there might 
upset the park service — ” 

“Let’s begin with Morse,” Arundhati interrupted. “Let’s do this in 
chronological order. He was murdered. Wiped. That was back on the 
forty -ninth of Arcimedo ...” 

A long time later, they finished. Lester put aside his gun. “You’ve 
decided my work should continue,” he said. “That’s why you’re being so 
kind to me.” 

“Have we?” Yossi looked at Arundhati. 

“We don’t have any choice, do we?” she asked. 

Lester nodded. “My hot particle makes all the difference. It’ll take 
people of proficiency to keep Mars from turning into plasma. Resources, 
a big budget, and a staff of bright and educated people.” 

Lester raised his voice. “I want to explain myself with a little back- 
ground. See, the norm geneticists of UNETAO decided a few years ago 
not to create any more shockleys; to trim funds for human science, just 
leave everything to the bugs. My kind were scary; geniuses too vain to 
keep within norm controls. Bugs were safer. So we were doomed in a few 
decades, but fine, I hate shockleys as much as anybody. What I love is 
science. Doing science, not just thinking science like the bugs do.” 

He paused and went on. “Now my Pandora’s box is opened wide. My 
work is a gift because it’s a curse: It makes it impossible for the human 
race to go to sleep and turn into mere larval bugs. It keeps us wetbrains 
on our toes. The age of science isn’t over after all.” 


298 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


“Unless UNETAO gives Gledhill to the bugs,” Yossi said. 

Lester shrugged. “The bugs of Olympus will ask for it, and if they take 
over they’ll kill me to prevent new trouble. I’m already under a secret 
death sentence, or Su would never have gone on a rampage. But diplo- 
macy is slow, and we’re talking about the renegotiation of major treaties. 
Maybe I overestimate vanity because I’m a shockley, but I think any 
human would hate to hand over a facility on the grounds that us wet- 
brains aren’t up to the work. For the next few years I’ll stay alive and 
busy.” 

“So all this was for the sake of science,” Arundhati complained. “All 
Mars took a risk, like Earth took a risk five hundred year ago when they 
detonated the first atomic bomb, not knowing if the chain reaction would 
destroy the whole planet. You made yourself the master of that decision. 
Now you’re saying the risk can’t be over. You can’t uncreate a universe.” 

Lester nodded. Arundhati turned to look at the bottle. “But damn it, 
everything will be under strict controls. The fun will be squeezed out, 
and you’ll have to live with that. Director Bragolio. It’ll be worse than 
jail. Hasday Ghazzabi will be resurrected, and a lot more norms will keep 
him company.” 

“Lester will be a prisoner!” Yossi stared at the shockley. “Won’t you?” 

“I’ve been a prisoner of places like this all my life,” Lester answered. 
“My only freedom was with you, and that was vicarious, and short-lived. 
It doesn’t seem real. I’d like to take the trip again. Maybe in a few years 
that can be allowed. I want to see Plotwitt’s Library, and Happy Hollow 
Island. A little fantasy. But perhaps I should ask what you two want? 
How can I repay you for your company?” 

“Make the call. Director. Do that first.” 

Lester nodded and went to a nearby carousel. He touched some keys. 
“Gledhill to . . . , uh . . .” 

“Randolph Mbika,” Yossi suggested. 

“Randolph Mbika,” he repeated. “Please patch me through to the Hon- 
orable Randolph Mbika. Director Morse — no, excuse me. Lester Bragolio 
here. Thank you. What? No, tell him I’m surrendering — put whatever 
verb he wants there. I’ll give the right orders: my people won’t make any 
resistance. Yes, I’ll be happy to hold.” 

Lester set down the mouthpiece, and forced a smile. “Two hostages, a 
reputation as a maniac, a bomb that could melt Mars, and I’ve just 
surrendered. Please understand me. I want this prison you’ve prophesied. 
I want it more than anything. I’ve schemed to keep it, and here I am.” 

“And so you win,” Yossi said. “Who loses? The everyday people of 
Mars?” He looked at Arundhati. 

“Gledhill’s waste heat will create a second tropics in the south fifty 
latitudes,” Lester said. “A gift of science, like Mars itself. I may even 
become a hero to future pioneers. If you two want to become rich, snatch 
up some real estate due east of here. Forgive me, these are venal things 
to say, but all these factors enter into the equation that will keep me 
alive.” 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


299 


“I don’t know what I want,” Arundhati said. “Excuse me for thinking 
about myself in all this cosmic grandeur, but you’ve set the example, and 
a minute ago you asked the question. What do I want? I don’t even have 
the certainty of jail. All this shit I’ve gone through — I guess I could write 
a book.” 

“I could hire you,” Lester offered. “I have an opening for a G18 nanny. 
The courts in Fournier are busy deciding it’s your job anyhow, so let’s 
make it simple.” 

Arundhati looked at Yossi sadly. “All you could offer me is the sea. I’d 
be your sidekick on a one-crew ship.” 

“Aw hell, you’re too skinny anyhow,” Yossi answered, as his hopes 
came crashing down. 

She stepped into his arms and kissed him, flesh to naked flesh. “But 
you could visit me,” she whispered. “Anytime you like. It’s a place to 
start. If you ... I mean — ” 

“Want to get started?” 

“Yes,” she said. 

“Yeah,” he answered. 

Days passed before the dust settled, while various PMC people crowded 
onto Gledhill Island. Days passed before it occurred to Yossi that there 
were things to be done, and victories to be consolidated. He kissed Arund- 
hati goodbye, spicing their last hour of passion with obscure promises. 
Lord knew where his rowboat had gone to, but he managed to get a ride 
out to the Tipsy Witch. 

He gave the ship her orders. In this warmth there was no need to thaw 
her out, no need for ether, no need to twiddle the feed mix. Her engines 
came alive and straightaway he felt the familiar joy of riding the waves. 
No passengers, no crowds, no vidcam jockeys, no people to charm and 
persuade, no marshals to apologize to — what a load off his back! 

It took three hours for the joy to wear off, as it had never worn off 
before. He’d become a different man, addicted to the human race, and 
for the first time Yossi felt lonely at sea. 

He’d left Arundhati for this? But it might be worse than that. It might 
be greed that drove him. Yossi tried not to think so, worried all the time 
that someone else might notice a tiny part of Arundhati’s long story, and 
beat him to the punch. Then he’d get what he deserved, for having a 
ratty little mind that sniffed out chances and kept them to himself, for 
private exploitation. 

This is me, virtues and vices packaged together. Tm a tuber. Who can 
be sillier than a tuber in love? And maybe it’ll work! Yossi contained his 
impatience until the Tipsy Witch reached Eisenroth Dock, then stewed 
around the Chapterhouse all night, tossing on his bunk until the glares 
of his neighbors paid him back for all the times he’d glared at them. 

Then he caught the train north to Fournier, and paced the corridors, 
wondering if any of these others were on the same mission as himself. 
What was the name of Lester’s lawyer? Did he dare call ahead for an 


300 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


appointment? God yes, it was worth anything to keep from waiting an- 
other day! 

Yossi heard a muffled “yes” in answer to his knock. The norm lawyer 
waved him into his office and pointed at his guest chair, all while focusing 
on some tiepatch communication only he could see. “Uh-huh. Yes. 
— Please sit down. I’ll be with you in a moment.” 

“I got this form from your secretary,” Yossi said. “I’ve filled it out.” He 
held it forward, genuine paper. 

“ — No, Shabtai, it’s not going to happen, and we can countersue if she 
keeps this up. I’ll get back to you.” After a few more grunts the lawyer 
blinked back into the real world, and took the form. “Sorry, I’ve got three 
fires burning at once. What’s this? A homestead claim?” the norm asked, 
rubbing his chin doubtfully. “Why do you need us for this?” 

Yossi felt like a man on trial. Please justify your presence in my uni- 
verse! He suspected that this new tunic he’d bought was not exactly in 
style, and maybe he’d put on too much cologne to cancel the effects of 
nervous perspiration. Still, he was the customer, proposing to pay for 
services rendered. “It’s nothing as glamorous as what you’re doing for 
Lester Bragolio, and I’d like to keep out of the news. It won’t take long 
to find out why I need you. I’ve paid fifty cash for this half-hour, and 
there’s your terminal.” 

“Parcel 235.015-44.98? I’ll check, yes indeed.” Yossi stared around at 
the room’s plush furnishings as the lawyer’s fingers clicked over the 
keyboard. A moment later the man swiveled from his screen to face his 
visitor. “It’s already owned. Colonel Philo S. Plotwitt — ” 

This was the big moment. “He doesn’t exist. It’s a phantom claim, 
because he never existed. A good lawyer can prove that. You’re good. I’m 
told. God knows you cost enough.” 

“Er, but see here. It’s been bought from Colonel Plotwitt by an Earth- 
man named Alec St. Gall.” The lawyer whistled when he read the trans- 
fer evaluation. “The man must be rich!” 

“A Blue eater rich enough to fly down from Phobos on his own shuttle,” 
Yossi answered. “Convertible wealth: he was told to buy that shuttle and 
sell it again, all for property that wasn’t Bai’s to sell. According to Euro- 
pol he’s embezzled millions. He’ll hire a top-gun lawyer of his own, to 
deal with you and fight extradition back to Earth; a tuber lawyer, maybe, 
with a fire in his belly that norms don’t have. Are you up to it?” 

After a pause the lawyer nodded. “I’m (the best, fire or no. It’s what’s 
up here that counts.” He tapped his head. “As long as we’re being so 
polite, can I ask about your finances? I hope you can afford me.” 

What is it about me? Should I have worn a business collar? A fancier 
tiepatch? “I can,” Yossi assured him. 

“Then let’s see what we can do.” 


Late the next afternoon, Yossi caught the train to Escalante. After tea 
and buns he left his compartment. 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


301 


Isidis was showy enough to draw his fellow passengers to the north 
windows and leave the communications carousel free, and he radioed 
ahead to his sister, looking to make sure he had privacy. “What’s the 
situation like down there? Are those poor Blues going to get prosecuted?” 

“You mean Plotwitt’s?” Greta answered. “You should have seen that 
place empty after the bug raid. Some even came this way!” 

“What about those snomos I asked you to check out? Liv Sjoberg and 
Tubs Najarian. How are they getting along?” 

“They’ve got a nice igloo and their own well. It’s a dandy fruit farm, 
biggest one in their prefecture quadrant. Randolph can’t tell me how 
much money they’ve got in the bank, but he cleared his throat signifi- 
cantly when I guessed five digits.” 

“Well, how much can a snomo need?” Yossi asked. “I suppose there’s 
no way to know if they sold Bai and Lester all their God-Fruit seeds. Not 
unless they start marketing the stuff themselves.” 

“If they were honest it leaves Doctor St. Gall with a monopoly,” Greta 
said. “That’s the fellow pottering around in Plotwitt’s. I hope he’s got a 
green thumb.” 

“Exactly what I mean to check out. A Blue fanatic stupid enough to 
spend his wad on a fraudulent title might seriously endanger my prop- 
erty,” Yossi answered. “I only wish I could get there quicker. A whole 
week! They say we’ll have airplanes on Mars in the fifth intercometary. 
The air will be thick enough.” 

“You think you’re going to walk in that door, find a row of prospering 
God-bushes, tell Alec St. Gall to scoot, and become the richest man on 
Mars?” Greta asked. “As simple as that? Visit me first. I want to check 
your sanity. Anyhow, you might need backup. I’m told Alec’s a dangerous 
man to cross.” 

“It’s not the money,” Yossi answered, ignoring Greta’s doubts. And 
maybe it was true. Maybe it wasn’t the money. “I mean . . . does God 
exist? I want to find out. After that everything else falls into place. But 
if I did become filthy rich, I could become a friend of science, and help 
out the crew down in Gledhill.” 

“You’re stuck on Arundhati, aren’t you?” Greta said. “I should have 
warned you about careerist lovers. I’ve got one myself Hell, I am one 
myself. It won’t be an easy romance. Don’t get killed for her.” 

A few moments flashed through Yossi’s head, moments on the night 
train to Hellas, moments at Gledhill. Greta would never have approved. 
“She’s going to have that job for a while, and be happy in it,” he answered. 
“Then she’ll start thinking how special this part of her life was, when 
nothing was safe. Meanwhile I’ll be collecting all those places; Plotwitt’s 
Library, and Happy Hollow Island, and the Tipsy Witch. I’ll be all over 
her past, matched soul to soul and memory to memory. She won’t be able 
to avoid me!” 

What could Greta say to that? After a pause, she wished her brother 
good luck. Yossi returned to his train compartment. The geysers of Isidis 
spouted and flared outside the window. Time sped on. He closed his eyes, 
and dreamed. 


302 


PHILLIP C. JENNINGS 


Yossi never dreamed (so he said), or else he never remembered his 
dreams. In this one he was accosted on this same train by a bug very 
like Su in appearance. Except this bug called himself Bai Shan, and he 
pulled Yossi into an empty compartment to have an oddly amiable chat. 

“What?” Bai began, quirking his boxlike head. “Of course I’m a bug 
now! You thought I could trust that crazy Lisbet Hume to do a perfect 
job of missing Morse and killing Arundhati? I worried that the use of a 
gun would betray me — how many gun fanciers live on Mars? — but I 
guess not. No, I’d already duplicated my soul into her brain, so it was 
me who got freighted to the Augustinian monastery on Olympus with 
the next load of dead souls.” 

“And you escaped?” Yossi asked. 

“Easily, once I earned enough points to buy this mobility sheath. The 
fastest route was down to the MarsBelt rail terminus in Mariner Valley. 
Forty kloms a day on foot, hiking into this atmosphere you wetbrains 
worked so hard to thicken up. So tell me, what are you doing here?” 

As if this were just happy chit-chat, Yossi answered without hesitation. 
“I’m going to perfect my claim to the place you homesteaded under your 
Colonel Plotwitt alias. Your library, funded with money you siphoned 
out of Gledhill.” Yossi took breath and went on to explain about Arund- 
hati, and her loves and wants. 

“So my dead self had a month of happily-ever-after with a woman this 
me has never met. My victim, almost twice! — But she’s not for me 
anymore,” Bai said wistfully. “My loves are pure now, less hormonal, no 
room for jealousy. I wish you good fortune. You’ll be a better Colonel 
Plotwitt than that Alec blunderer from Earth.” 

“I hope he’s not likeable,” Yossi said. “I assumed that as a Blue — ” 

“He’s a rich jerk, although who knows what God has done to him over 
the last month.” Bai paused thoughtfully. “I suppose I could make sure 
Alec doesn’t make life too difficult. Clear the way. Would that be a good 
bit of zalatwic to make up for my crimes?” 

Yossi frowned. “Uh, I don’t — ” 

“ — Certainly not. You don’t want a guilty conscience. That would be 
horrible. I’ll make sure you don’t remember this talk of ours, and hurry 
ahead. But I’d like to plant a suggestion. I want you to give me a welcome 
when I show up, maybe a week later. I can help you with the housekeep- 
ing. Be your caretaker while you’re off at sea. Bugs cost hardly anything, 
and we’re useful. I need a place to stay.” 

Already Yossi’s comprehension was fading. “Uh, yeah. Nice,” he said 
vaguely. “Sure. Like to have you. Just as long as ... no guns . . . .” 

“No guns,” Bai agreed. “Not any more.” 

An hour later when Yossi woke up, he felt he’d forgotten something 
important. Something comforting, but with a worrisome edge. Something 
with lots of implications. Maybe it was because of these nagging feelings 
that he didn’t sleep well that night. Or maybe it was because the nap 
threw off his schedule. It was hard to say.# 


THE FOURTH INTERCOMETARY 


303 


Norman Spinrad 


STYLE 


Queen of Angels, Greg Bear, 
Questar/Warner, 1991, $4.95 (pb) 
Nightshade, Jack Butler, Atlantic 
Monthly Press, 1990, $18.95 (he) 
Ambient, Jack Womack, 
Weidenfeld, 1987, $15.95 (he) 
Terraplane, Jack Womack, Tor, 
1990, $3.95 (pb) 

Heathern, Jack Womack, Tor, 1991 , 
$16.95 (he) 

“Three stations ago the round 
little white autobus had filled with 
citizens of the shade young and old, 
a medieval assortment of widely 
different norms brothers and sis- 
ters common victims of the 
future . . . 

Light gilded them all second- 
hand through the goggling win- 
dows. Five suns glowed in the slow 
twisting gear meshing arms of the 
three towers of East Comb One, 
generous light bequeathed to the 
groundlings, -f No good mood this 
day. Roughed and not deserving.” 

— Queen of Angels, 
Greg Bear 

“The car’s computer — a number 
six — awared Jimmy of internal 
troubles, gently chiding him if bad 
tidings sounded. Armor lined the 
car frame. A wire skirt ran be- 
neath; no mollies could be rolled 
under by any seeking sport. The 


electroshield buzzed at button’s 
press, frying miscreants wishing to 
lodge grievances. If warranted, 
less passive options effected. When 
all failed, my hands guarded; there 
were never safer hands than 
mine.” 

—Ambient, 
Jack Womack 

“The Starbuck series. . . . Oh 
yes, my lovelies, they made your 
Mars. You made them, and then 
they, your servants, your perfect 
angels — they made a world for you. 

But then there had been trouble 
in heaven. . . . There had been all 
sorts of noise in the trivia. ... If 
your local barker thought govern- 
mental paranoia would sell, then 
you heard that the overruns repre- 
sented a sort of deliberate sabo- 
tage. ... If the idea was that ro- 
mance would generate a better 
market share, then maybe some 
naked wacko . . . would appear in 
3-D in your living room to tell you 
that the Starbucks had been cre- 
ated with sex drives, and had all 
committed suicide in a swoon over 
the Marilyn Monroes. 

Serves me right, you may say, 
for watching the zoomer channels 
instead of the hard news.” 

—Nightshade, 
Jack Butler 


304 


Three more or less random 
quotes from the early set-up pages 
of three science fiction novels, 
though not from three randomly 
chosen novels. Each of these novels 
is set in a different future world — 
Queen of Angels in a twenty-first 
century Los Angeles, Ambient in 
a twenty-first century New York, 
Nightshade on Mars about a cen- 
tury later. 

Each of these passages occurs 
early on, in the process of introduc- 
ing the reader to the world and a 
major character. 

Both Ambient and Nightshade 
are narrated from a single first- 
person viewpoint — O’Malley, a 
twenty-first century bodyguard in 
the case of the Womack, John 
Shade, vampire, in the case of the 
Butler — and it is the “voice” of 
these characters doing the talking 
in the quoted passages. 

Greg Bear, on the other hand, 
narrates Queen of Angels through 
several third-person viewpoints, 
and in the quoted passage, we are 
meeting Richard Fettle, dilettante 
writer. 

What these three science fiction 
novels have in common is also 
what distinguishes them from the 
general mode of most contempo- 
rary SF — their authors’ use of style 
to convey character, ambiance, 
background detail, state of con- 
sciousness. 

In a single paragraph, O’Malley 
not only tells us that we are in a 
savage urban future, that he is a 
bodyguard of sorts, but that far 
from being a standard heavy, he is 
a man of sardonic sophistication, 
possessed of a strange sort of men- 
tal elegance we have never en- 
countered before, our guide to a 


new world different not only in ar- 
tifact but in social and psychologi- 
cal texture. 

John Shade reveals himself to be 
not your stock vampire in a Mar- 
tian setting, but a creature of self- 
deprecating wit and intelligence in 
the process of introducing us to the 
terminology, cynicism, and hyper- 
capitalistic hucksterism of the fu- 
turistic Martian mediascape. 

Working in third person, his 
prose influenced by but not en- 
tirely subsumed in the mental 
style of the third-person viewpoint 
of Richard Fettle, Greg Bear be- 
gins to lay in the physical setting 
of his future Los Angeles, a bit of 
its class structure, and the com- 
pressed futuristic state of con- 
sciousness of one of his main pro- 
tagonists. 

But isn’t this sort of thing simply 
what good writing is supposed to 
do? Isn’t good prose style supposed 
to reveal character, mood, and am- 
biance subtly and artfully in the 
process of describing artifact and 
action? 

Yes and no. 

Yes, when it comes to contempo- 
rary literature. 

No, according to the esthetic the- 
ory on the subject long dominant 
within the genre of science fiction. 

In contemporary literature, the 
action takes place either in a set- 
ting directly familiar to the reader 
or one with second-hand familiar- 
ity from other fiction, where key 
words and bits of description can 
orient the reader, place him in a 
readily understandable setting, 
and where, therefore, an idiosyn- 
cratic prose style primarily serves 
to convey the mode of a character’s 
consciousness. 


NORMAN SPINRAD 


305 


Certainly, for example, one 
adopts the first person narrative 
technique so that the story may be 
told directly in the voice of the 
character, and the only real reason 
for adopting this somewhat restric- 
tive literary technique (the writer 
can reveal nothing of the story or 
the setting that the character 
doesn’t know) is to convey the con- 
sciousness of the character first- 
hand, intimately, without aucto- 
rial filtration. 

The reader, like the writer, is in- 
side the character’s skin, seeing 
through his eyes, hearing through 
his ears, smelling through his 
nose, experiencing his somatic sen- 
sations, becoming the character for 
the duration. 

On the other hand, this does 
present certain problems. The 
writer, for example, may wish to 
portray characters with less so- 
phistication, education, or even in- 
telligence than he or the ideal 
reader possesses. He may wish to 
elucidate depths of character or 
motivation beyond his protago- 
nists’ level of self-awareness. The 
story may require, at various 
points, that the reader know more 
about what is going on than the 
characters. 

One may opt for the so-called 
“omniscient author” technique, in 
which the writer simply goes 
ahead and tells the whole story 
from outside the characters in his 
own natural voice. Doing so makes 
him free to use all his knowledge 
and sophistication rather than re- 
strict himself to the level of any 
character’s consciousness, reveal- 
ing whatever seems useful to the 
tale at any point in the narrative. 

But what this strategy gains in 


facility, it loses in intimacy, in 
emotional connection between the 
reader and the characters, hence in 
narrative tension, in deep involve- 
ment. Since the reader is made all- 
too-aware of the voice of the omni- 
scient author telling the tale, the 
story tends to exist at a psychologi- 
cal distance. For this reason, omni- 
scient author technique is not em- 
ployed all that often, still less often 
successfully. 

The dominant mode of fictional 
narration tends to be via one or 
more “third person viewpoints.” 
Here, the characters do not narrate 
the story directly in their own 
words, but the author does directly 
convey their internal thoughts, ei- 
ther through the direct reproduc- 
tion of their “streams of conscious- 
ness” or via his own somewhat 
distanced summary description, 
and he will also directly describe 
their sensory imput and somatic 
sensations. But the writer will 
also, hopefully judiciously, step 
outside his characters’ conscious- 
ness, knowledge, sensory streams, 
to describe events from an outside 
viewpoint. 

What does all this have to do 
with prose style? 

Well, obviously, when a writer 
chooses the omniscient author 
technique, the prose style is going 
to be his style, whether the story is 
set in contemporary New York, a 
future Mars, or pre-Columbian 
Mexico, unrestricted by the con- 
sciousnesses of the characters or 
the society in which they operate. 

Just as obviously, but easier said 
than successfully done, when a 
writer opts for first person narra- 
tion, the prose style must be that of 
the character doing the narration. 


306 


ON BOOKS: STYLE 


using the vocabulary of his cul- 
ture, informed by the style of his 
consciousness, restricted by his 
knowledge, conveying the flavor of 
his emotional life in its own terms, 
or at least creating the literary il- 
lusion of same. 

Third person narration, whether 
through the viewpoint of one char- 
acter or of several, presents a wider 
possible range of prose style, but 
also a more delicate and complex 
set of choices. One may restrict the 
influence of the characters’ style of 
consciousness on the prose to the 
stream of consciousness and dia- 
logue passages, or one may let it 
color everything. Or, within rea- 
son, anything in-between. One 
may imbed the idiosyncratic styles 
of several third-person viewpoint 
characters within a matrix of con- 
ventional prose, or for that matter, 
within an overview matrix of un- 
conventional prose. One may throw 
media-montage into the mix. 

What does all this have to do 
with science fiction? 

Nothing, or so goes the theory of 
so-called “transparent prose.” 

According to this theory, the 
ideal prose for science fiction 
should be “invisible,” a clear, lucid, 
transparent, standard style that 
“disappears” into the woodwork, 
serving simply to convey dialogue, 
action, physical description, emo- 
tions, thoughts, into the mind of 
the reader in the form of direct sen- 
sory images, producing a reading 
experience ideally akin to full-sen- 
sory literary cinema. 

&ience fiction, after all, so the 
argument goes, deals with the un- 
real, the invented, the bizarre, the 
outre; the necessary suspension of 
disbelief is difficult enough to 


achieve without subjecting the 
reader to prose that calls attention 
to itself rather than to the events 
and settings of the story, that 
therefore calls attention to the ar- 
tificiality of the reading experi- 
ence, that interposes itself between 
the reader and the sequence of im- 
ages and actions, that reminds the 
reader that he is reading a book 
rather than watching a full-sen- 
sory movie inside his own head. 

Well, maybe. Certainly most sci- 
ence fiction is written this way 
most of the time, masterpieces of 
the genre as well as rack-fillers. 

But on the other hand, the me- 
dium is the message, a book is not 
a film, and just as there is some- 
thing to be said (in Alexei Pan- 
shin’s words) for “science fiction 
that knows it’s science fiction,” 
there is also something to be said 
for science fiction that knows it’s 
literature and that prose, not im- 
agery, is the actual medium 
thereof Science fiction which, like 
the works of Bear, Butler, and Wo- 
mack in question, far from seeking 
to make the prose transparent and 
invisible, uses it as a central ex- 
trapolative device. 

Butler and Womack, whom we 
will get to later, have come to the 
SF genre from somewhat oblique 
directions, but Greg Bear has ma- 
tured as a writer entirely within 
it. He has experimented with prose 
style before, notably in certain sec- 
tions of the novel Blood Music and 
the novella “Hardfought,” in both 
cases utilizing idiosyncratic prose 
styles to portray the conscious- 
nesses and worldviews of psychi- 
cally non-standard characters, mu- 
tated humans and aliens in 


NORMAN SPINRAD 


307 


“Hardfought,” mutated humans 
and a retarded girl evolving to a 
higher level of consciousness in 
Blood Music. 

Interestingly enough, in both in- 
stances, as with Queen of Angels, 
he has done this with third person 
narration for the most part, rather 
than first. This requires a bit extra 
in the way of courage and audacity. 

A writer using idiosyncratic 
prose in first person narration, 
after all, is, to an extent, hiding 
behind the character; this is not my 
style, he can say, this guy is telling 
his own story in his own words, so 
if it seems stilted, or confusing, or 
awkward, hey, that’s not me, that’s 
the nature of my narrator. With 
third person viewpoint, however, 
the writer is choosing the extent 
and manner in which the style of 
the character’s dialogue and con- 
sciousness affects descriptions of 
artifact and action, and therefore 
cannot coyly proclaim his literary 
neutrality when it comes to the re- 
sults. 

In Queen of Angels, Greg Bear 
goes all the way and narrates the 
novel in a multiplexity of styles, 
one each for his third-person view- 
point characters, others for the 
mutating first-person viewpoints 
of two Artificial Intelligences, a 
certain amount of media-montage, 
even quoting one character’s jour- 
nals and his poetry. 

Poet Emanuel Goldsmith, who 
we never meet as a viewpoint char- 
acter, has committed the mysteri- 
ous mass murder of eight of his 
own acolytes. A bit of his poetry: 

“God shot up with me last night. 
Ida shared my needle 
Except he use the Empire State 


Building 

Filled his veins with Con Ed” 

Policewoman Mary Choy is as- 
signed to apprehend him for ther- 
apy. Here she has examined his 
office: 

“What she specked was unorga- 
nized uncontemporary inefficient, 
what one might assume of a poet; 
but the scatter of cubes on desktop 
and floor pointed to a greater disor- 
ganization, a careless personal 
moonstrike. 

A closure. 

She held up her slate to read the 
inprog. Sloughed cell and fiber 
analysis and assay of the office 
area showed no entry but for Gold- 
smith. Whatever socials he had 
conducted, none had entered this 
sanctum.” 

Bear, in a careful blending of 
Mary’s consciousness, buzzwords 
from her world, and his own sum- 
mary elucidation, introduces arti- 
fact, delineates cultural attitude, 
advances plot, and shows us the 
mind of a twenty-first century pro- 
fessional LA cop in action. 

Queen of Angels is a murder 
mystery in which the question is 
not whodunit, but why. Richard 
Fettle, Goldsmith’s surviving 
groupie, has personal reasons for 
seeking the answer. He goes to tell 
a literary group about the mur- 
ders: 

“Red haired Madame de Roche, 
sixty, thought people a delightful 
phenomenon worth cultivating. 
. . . She lived in the shade but she 
was not of the shadows . . . (she) no 
more resembled her guests than 


308 


ON BOOKS: STYLE 


she did her garden or her cats, 
which she also cared for with grace 
and understanding. 

+ Reduce it to a performance a 
tale. Artificial but one way of sal- 
vaging a rough hour. That I might 
be a murderer. Eight die that I 
might live five minutes to tell a 
tale that happened to me to all of 
us for we all knew Goldsmith. Ac- 
cusations of not turning him in; 
knowing his need for therapy 
which I did not; I did not. . . . 

Richard shivered. -I- Jesus. I am 
a peaceful man. Forgive me, but I 
have earned this story.” 

By gliding back and forth be- 
tween third-person description and 
Fettle’s stream of consciousness. 
Bear sets up a minor character and 
the coming scene, places her in her 
class context, shows us Fettle’s at- 
titude towards her, portrays his 
own style of consciousness, so dif- 
ferent from Mary Choy’s, eluci- 
dates his motivations and his psy- 
chic relationship to the victims and 
Goldsmith, and establishes that in 
this society, murderers or potential 
murderers receive forced therapy 
rather than punishment, and that 
citizens thereof have the moral and 
legal responsibility to turn the psy- 
chically aberrant in to the author- 
ities. 

Martin Burke is a kind of thera- 
pist who enters “The Country of 
the Mind,” the psychic landscape of 
his patients, in order to treat them. 
Here he ponders his calling, his 
professional failure, his estranged 
lover; 

“Dreading being Martin Burke. 
Nothing enjoyable at this instant 
about being himself. Ozymandias 


in the dust. His attention switched 
from external to internal. He 
thought of Carol and the weak- 
nesses and frictions between even 
stable men and women. Conflict of 
the sexes is not a disease; it is an 
unavoidable by-product like smoke 
and water from a fire.” 

Distanced third-person sum- 
mary of Burke’s thoughts by Bear, 
combined with judicious larding of 
stream of consciousness to portray 
yet another style of consciousness 
inhabiting the same world. 

There is much, much more. Dif- 
ferent prose styles for Burke’s and 
Carol’s viewpoint inside Gold- 
smith’s Country of the Mind. The 
stream of consciousnesses of Jill, 
an Artificial Intelligence, prior to, 
in the process of, and after at- 
taining self-awareness, as well as 
that of AXIS, an A.I. stellar probe 
undergoing a similar sentient 
metamorphosis. 

In Queen of Angels, Greg Bear 
has taken a rather simple plot — a 
murder mystery that is already 
solved, from a formal point of 
view — and used it as the armature 
for an exceedingly complex story of 
character, consciousness, and psy- 
chological levels. And in the pro- 
cess, has portrayed many levels of 
a sophisticated and variegated fu- 
ture society from the inside out. 

Science fiction, a reviewer once 
unfortunately and approvingly 
proclaimed, is “literary television,” 
meaning that its ultima thule 
should be a similar effect, that the 
writer should seek to create the il- 
lusion of the story as a sequential 
montage of direct sensory images 
in the reader’s mind rather than as 
a sequence of mere words. 


NORMAN SPINRAD 


309 


But if anything exfoliates the 
full meaning of Marshall McLu- 
han’s aphorism that the medium is 
the message, it is this novel. Had 
Greg Bear tried to write Queen of 
Angels in transparent prose that 
existed only to convey images, dia- 
logue, and action, the result would 
at best have been a pale shadow of 
this considerable literary achieve- 
ment. 

For Queen of Angels, or anything 
like it, simply could not work as 
film, whether up there on an actual 
screen or as a full sensory movie in 
the reader’s mind, for a story such 
as this can only exist in the me- 
dium of prose, and carefully 
crafted, multiplexed, and idiosyn- 
cratic prose at that. 

Only prose can render internal 
stream of consciousness as it more 
or less occurs, only prose can truly 
show how a character’s internal 
psychic landscape affects and col- 
ors perception of external reality, 
only prose can shade the difference 
between what characters say and 
what they think about what they 
are saying, and only prose that 
knows it’s prose, that adapts its 
style to mirror the content, can do 
all this with emotional immediacy. 

And when it comes to science 
fiction — where elucidation of a 
whole society, the natures of its in- 
habitants’ consciousnesses, his- 
tory, back story, the nature of the 
posited reality itself, all must be 
artfully slipped into the narrative 
flow without gagging the reader on 
indigestible expository lumps — to 
eschew the full potential of this 
most flexible and powerful of story- 
telling media in favor of a trans- 
parent prose-line that seeks to ef- 
face itself from the reader’s con- 


sciousness is like shooting a whole 
movie without changing the light- 
ing or adding music to the sound 
track. 

The reading of fiction, science 
fiction included, is a literary expe- 
rience, prose is its medium, and 
style at its best is also content. 

Which is not to say that prose 
has to be as mutated as Bear’s in 
Queen of Angels in order to accom- 
plish most of the above, or that the 
single first person narrative form 
necessarily has to be more restric- 
tive than multiple third person, or 
that a writer employing it must in- 
evitably find his prose style con- 
stricted by the necessity of limiting 
himself to what his first-person 
viewpoint character is realistically 
capable of writing. 

If said character is illiterate, un- 
educated, stupid, unsophisticated, 
or some combination thereof, fil- 
tering your prose through his con- 
sciousness is not likely to produce 
elegant style, though it can pro- 
duce poignant masterpieces like 
Flowers for Algernon, Davy, or 
Huckleberry Finn. 

But the writer can just as well 
choose a first-person narrator who 
is as literate, intelligent, educated, 
and sophisticated as he is, conceiv- 
ably more so, at least when it 
comes to science fiction. 

I did this twice myself in my two 
“Second Starfaring Age” novels, 
set in an evolved far future society 
speaking an evolved language, a 
society whose ordinary citizens are 
far more sophisticated and knowl- 
edgeable than twentieth century 
savants, including myself. This not 
only allowed me to employ as com- 
plex and sophisticated a style as I 


310 


ON BOOKS: STYLE 


could manage, the style itself al- 
lowed me to create the illusion that 
my narrators were my mental su- 
periors. They, after all, were think- 
ing and speaking and being read in 
realtime, whereas I had recourse to 
thesauruses and multi-lingual dic- 
tionaries, and could take hours to 
craft their off-hand instant bon 
mots and evolved thoughts when I 
had to. 

John Shade, the first person nar- 
rator of Jack Butler’s Nightshade, 
is a vampire, and, unlike Butler, 
has been around for centuries be- 
fore the action begins on Mars, nor 
has he failed to grow intellectually 
during his long lifetime. This legit- 
imately allows Butler, writing as 
Shade, to stretch himself to the 
limits of his own style, perhaps, in 
a way, a bit beyond. Indeed, since 
the literary conceit is that Shade 
is writing the very novel the reader 
is holding, that Shade himself is an 
experienced novelist, albeit some- 
thing of a hack prior to this one, 
Butler need not even eschew the 
full range of literary technique in 
order for his first person narrator 
to remain convincing. 

Shade the vampire on Shade the 
writer: 

“I began my chronicles in mad- 
ness and loneliness, to have the il- 
lusion of someone to talk to. . . . It 
is time that has made me a novelist 
of my own life. All of us, as we grow 
older, must surely become more 
abstract to ourselves, more able to 
see and generalize the patterns of 
our behavior. And I am older, it 
may now be, than anyone. . . . 

I wrote, back then, in a fever of 
longing. I let my prose tumble out 
urgent and giddy and scram- 


bled. . . I began to read stories of 
human behavior, as if I could un- 
derstand myself by understanding 
you. . . . Homer was not so respect- 
able. We sneaked Ovid. Shake- 
speare had just begun . . . the re- 
vival that would transform him 
from groundling-pleasing scribe to 
classical playwright. The notion of 
studying popular literature, of ac- 
tually taking it seriously, is more 
recent than you might think.” 

Shade, then, has been an intel- 
lectual and literary vampire since 
colonial times, and Butler is a uni- 
versity academic, not a typical SF 
writer, so Butler limits himself lit- 
erarily not at all by assuming 
Shade’s prose style, and moreover, 
is equipped to render it with verisi- 
militude. 

Mars, however, far from being a 
grove of academe, is a kind of su- 
perheated, media-obsessed, slea- 
zoid, wide-open, mutated frontier 
society, “the Free Asteroids” of SF 
libertarian lore, McLuhanized, le- 
veraged, show biz-ized, and corpo- 
ratized to the max, where the re- 
bels-against-the-system plot that 
Shade becomes involved in hinges 
on a ploy to jack the price of air, 
involves sentient robots, janglers 
(humans with parts of their brains 
replaced by chipware), bevos 
(walking, talking, meat factories), 
and in which sufficiently high rat- 
ings for one’s exploits without re- 
gard to their moral nature, that is, 
a high enough price for the TV 
rights, can protect one from the 
law. 

All this would probably be per- 
ceived on the level of satire, farce, 
or yard-goods sci-fi, if Shade’s 
witty and sardonic narrative 


NORMAN SPINRAD 


311 


prose-line did not render it all as 
surreally realistic as Time cover- 
age of the Watergate hijinks or a 
random thirty minutes of CNN. 

“ ‘Woop-loop-a-doop, howze-ab- 
oudy,’ she (newscaster) said. ‘. . . 
Howze-aboudy John Shade howdy 
hustlers slammin SAM, wo 
yay? . . . ’ 

While she was talking, the back- 
ground switched to scenes of bat- 
tle: actual takes of my house . . . 
this morning’s satellite scan. 
. . . They had paid a pretty penny. 
But the actual cuts gave way to 
generated shots ... in which drool- 
ing marines were slaughtering a 
camp of naked teener hus- 
tlers. . . . The action was from 
Swords over Hellas . . . and they 
hadn’t even bothered to splice in 
background . . . 

‘They’ve really toned it down in 
the past few years,’ I said to no one 
in particular.” 

Butler uses dialogue to convey in 
admirable depth the bizarre lin- 
guistic ambiance, the flavor and 
texture of his future Mars .... 

“Ipop tight-beam? I can lase it.” 

“Ante plite a fake a clown 
needa?” 

“Wann be a learna, spose a be a 
burna, guessem gan a jamma 
stone.” 

“Foot goot puttery, mamain- 
main.” 

While Shade, at once very much 
a citizen of Butler’s Mars, yet at 
the same time possessed of an his- 
torical background and literary 
style that provides both an inside 
viewpoint and a sardonic and 


highly educated perspective writ- 
ing for the ages, supplies trans- 
lation, explication, and mordant 
running commentary on the pro- 
ceedings. . . . 

“It is precisely the sort of accom- 
modation to black-market enter- 
prise you might expect to find in a 
corporate democracy . . . whose 
dominant industries are entertain- 
ment and information ... It had 
begun . . . back when Sam became 
the world’s largest property owner 
simply by seizing the assets of ma- 
jor drug dealers. . . . Just a very 
complicated way of taxing the citi- 
zen-addict, no?” 

“It’s tough having to bear the 
fantasy life of your elders, measure 
up to those few bright generations 
from a vanished century. A Teener 
Dreams of Freedom. School Days 
1999. Coming soon to a maxie near 
you.” 

“. . . a few zoomers refuse to be 
passive modules of the net, re- 
jecting the (for them) mandatory 
interface. They prefer — strange 
notion — to develop their own 
minds in their own ways. ... if you 
do not want to subsist on the pap 
of the zoomer channels, you must 
resort to radical strategies. You 
must read books, study, think.” 

Like Queen of Angels, only more 
so. Nightshade’s plotline — Vam- 
pire on Mars Leads Cybermutants 
Against Corporate Baddies, Pic- 
tures at eleven — is merely an ar- 
mature for something else, some- 
thing much more, something that 
simply cannot be reduced to a se- 
quence of sensory images on some 


312 


ON BOOKS: STYLE 


boob tube in the reader’s head 
without being utterly trivialized. 

Nightshade, like Butler’s Mars, 
like his vampire narrator, is a 
creature of its medium, an inher- 
ently literary experience, for that 
medium is prose. It is the contrast 
between Shade’s wise-cracking 
and literate narration and the 
Dickian slapstick of Butler’s Mars 
that gives the novel its depth and 
reality, and indeed it is the verbal 
and linguistic ambiance of that 
Mars which gives the setting itself 
such verve and life. 

As Shade himself says, if you 
don’t want to subsist on the pap of 
TV inside your own head, you must 
resort to radical strategies. You 
must read books as books, and you 
must be willing to be more than a 
passive module sucking up second- 
hand television, reject the manda- 
tory interface of transparent prose, 
and open yourself — strange no- 
tion — to literary reality, to fiction, 
even science fiction, whose mes- 
sage can fully exist only in its na- 
tive medium, whose medium can 
only be that which, in the final 
analysis, is what makes us human 
in the first place, the glorious 
magic of language itself. 

Jack Womack, somewhat like 
Butler, seems to have come to sci- 
ence fiction along a non-genre vec- 
tor, though, unlike Butler, at least 
for the moment, by the publication 
of Heathern, his third novel, he 
would seem, for better or worse, to 
have been adopted by the publish- 
ing apparatus thereof as one of the 
boys. 

His first novel. Ambient, was 
published in hardcover as a main- 
stream book by Weidenfeld and 


Nicolson, a house without an SF 
line, received some good main- 
stream critical attention, but 
seemed to go nowhere in paper- 
back. His second novel, Ter- 
raplane, was published by the 
same house in trade, but picked up 
by Tor for its SF line in pai>erback, 
perhaps as part of the deal by 
which Tor took over original hard- 
cover publication of his third 
novel, Heathern. 

After reading all three novels, 
it’s not hard to read the tea-leaves 
too, and suss out what must have 
happened. A brilliant but highly 
idiosyncratic new novelist man- 
aged to get two science fiction nov- 
els published as mainstream by a 
major publisher who really didn’t 
know what to do with them, he 
found himself a science fiction line 
which did, crossed over, and now 
has found himself a home for a six- 
book series, according to his own 
note in the back of Heathern. 

Yes, Ambient, Terraplane, and 
Heathern are the first half of a pro- 
jected six book series set in the 
same fictional universe, which, as 
we shall see, is why Womack’s pub- 
lishing history is relevant to a dis- 
cussion of his prose. 

Each of these novels is narrated 
in first person by a different char- 
acter. The narrator of Ambient is 
O’Malley, bodyguard to Thatcher 
Dryden, owner and corporate ty- 
rant of Dryco, the many-tentacled 
conglomerate, headquartered in a 
behavioral sink twenty-first cen- 
tury New York, dominating a kind 
of post-collapse, post-greenhouse 
United States, up to and including 
owning the president and the 
armed forces. Terraplane is nar- 
rated by Luther, a retired general 


NORMAN SPINRAD 


313 


in Dryco’s semi-sub-rosa employ. 
Heathern is narrated by Joanna, 
Dry den’s Vice President in Charge 
of New Projects and sometime 
lover. 

Ambient involves a lot of corpo- 
rate hugger-mugger and armed ac- 
tion, at the conclusion of which the 
ruthless Dryden emerges trium- 
phant and O’Malley is allowed to 
opt out into retirement. In Ter- 
raplane, Luther and Jake, a Dryco 
hit-man, are warped back into an 
alternate America of the late 
1930s, still in the depths of the 
Great Depression, and on the brink 
of war; after various misadven- 
tures, Luther succeeds in re- 
turning to the Dryco future. 
Heathern tells the story of a street- 
level messiah, Dryden’s attempt to 
co-opt him for his own purposes, 
plots against Dryco, political 
struggles involving the Japanese, 
and so forth. 

Once again, we are dealing with 
science fiction whose central ap- 
peal is literary, where the treat- 
ment for the mind-movie to be shot 
in transparent prose cannot convey 
the true nature of the work, where 
the medium is the message, and 
the prose style is the unique and 
fascinating texture thereof 

You can open Ambient or Ter- 
raplane virtually at random, read 
a short passage, and see it at once: 

Ambient: 

“. . . the Army admitted thou- 
sands ... so that all might stalk in 
ease, slaughtering time, frolicking 
beneath the advertisement’s 
gleam, vizzing the enormous vid 
monitors. . . . 

On assurance of death, lA cars 
passing through the Free Zone 


were left unscarred; Army boys, 
arms linked, shielded our land, to 
certify.” 

Terraplane: 

“Refugees’ faces held similar 
looks in every land I’d troubled; the 
look of these fit naught but for 
breathing and running, forced by 
us to abandon home and race the 
roads before the other team, pur- 
poseful and timeshort, landed to 
steal their days away.” 

Ambient: 

“ ‘Wish and wing away. You 
could Hamlet for age over age,’ she 
said. ‘Hear me now before you pave 
your dark road, thripping fingers 
to perp and blast. My brother’s soul 
I feel my own. Your power is 
mightier than your sword.’ ” 

Terraplane: 

“On streetlevel, traffic streamed: 
battered cars plain with years of 
unmuseumed use, looking less in- 
sectival as they familiarized them- 
selves onto my mind. ...” 

This is science fictional world- 
building from the smallest 
quanta — words, grammars, 

speech- rhythms — on up. Unlike 
Bulter’s literary vampire, Wo- 
mack’s narrators are more or less 
ordinary citizens of their universe, 
not prose stylists, and this is the 
texture of their speech, their 
thoughts, their moment-to-mo- 
ment perceptions of their extrapo- 
lated environment. There is noth- 
ing at all transparent about this 
prose, but what it calls attention 
to is not so much its own stylistic 
elegance, though there certainly is 
that, but to the mutated conscious- 
ness of its speakers and thinkers. 
Through the medium of prose, Wo- 
mack doesn’t tell us this, he lets 


314 


ON BOOKS: STYLE 


his narrators show us. 

Womack’s future New York is 
savage, exaggerated, extreme; 
though ably extrapolated with a 
wealth of detail, it is pushed so far 
over the edge that it would be per- 
ceived as cartoony were it to be de- 
scribed in conventional transpar- 
ent prose, a slapstick sequence of 
sights and sounds on the TV screen 
of the mind. Nor, really, are the 
stories of these novels that much 
out of the science fictional or- 
dinary. 

But by extrapolating down to 
this deepest and most intimate of 
levels, by mutating the very vocab- 
ulary, grammar, quotidian music 
of his world, Womack renders it as 
psychologically real as our own, 
warps us into it on the deepest per- 
ceptual level, not that of the image, 
but that of the Word, the music, 
the very song of the self, real, or 
imagined. 

More, far from being a degener- 
ate patois, such as that of A Clock- 
work Orange or Riddley Walker, 
Womack’s extrapolated prose-line, 
strangely but tellingly at variance 
with the surface content of his so- 
cially, economically, ecologically, 
and politically deteriorated 
America, is artfully compressed, 
sophisticatedly subtle, almost neo- 
classical in its grammatical convo- 
lutions and recondite sentence 
structure, an instrument of power 
and grace, a testament, somehow, 
of the spiritual transcendence of 
prose itself in his latter-day dys- 
topia. 

Nowhere, perhaps, is this more 
telling than in Luther’s weirdly 
alien perception of 1930s New 
York in Terraplane. Here, an ordi- 
nary seedy doctor’s office: 


“My look shifted over time’s eas- 
ier-ignored flotsam: a malachite 
lamp in nude woman’s shape, an 
ash wall clock, its filigreed hands 
pendulum driven; an ashtray 
where cigs might be clutched by 
deco penguin beaks; a typewriter 
of MOMA caliber. Desksided was a 
wastebasket hollowed from recy- 
cled elephant’s foot, whose descen- 
dants passed from their veldt in my 
memory, leaving zoo-held strag- 
glers to serve their species’ sen- 
tence. ... to see such items in obvi- 
ous use, not hidden in owner’s vast 
holdings, under museum glass or 
vizzed momentslong in sets of 
films, lent unforeseen awe, the 
shock of the old. 

‘He must be moneyed full,’ Jake 
said, totaling bounty. 

‘All for daily use,’ I said. ‘Thrift- 
shop bound. Fifty old dollars’d buy 
it all . . . It only lends wealth’s im- 
press.’ ” 

Essence, somehow, of science 
fiction. 

When we get to Heathern, 
though, the third novel in the cy- 
cle, and the first to be published 
from the outset in a science fiction 
line as a self-proclaimed sequel to 
the previous two and prequel to 
three more, it’s all become a bit at- 
tenuated. Not that Heathern is a 
bad novel, far from it; as a debut it 
would be quite impressive. But as 
a follow-on to Ambient and Ter- 
raplane, it’s somewhat disappoint- 
ing, and bodes less than well for 
the final three books in the se- 
quence. 

The opening paragraph, which 
establishes the prose-line: 

“A baby almost killed me as I 


NORMAN SPINRAD 


315 


walked to work one morning. By 
passing beneath a bus shelter’s 
roof at the ordained moment I lived 
to tell my tale. With strangers sur- 
rounding me I looked at what re- 
mained. Laughter from the heav- 
ens made us lift our eyes skyward. 
The baby’s mother lowered her 
arms and leaned out her window.” 

Good prose to be sure, but bent 
back a good distance toward con- 
ventional transparency from that 
of Ambient and Terraplane, and 
Joanna’s narration continues 
throughout the novel about at this 
level. What is happening to Jack 
Womack? Has his shift to original 
SF genre publication begun to in- 
fect him with the generally ac- 
cepted wisdom thereof when it 
comes to transparency of style? 
Has his apparent commitment to 
three more novels in the series 
flattened his energy level with a 
certain pre-cog fatigue? 

That is the pessimistic assess- 
ment. For a novelist with Wo- 
mack’s enormous potential but 
previous lack of fame and fortune 
to embark upon a six book series 
may indeed be a conventionally 
wise career move in an economic 
sense at this juncture, SF publish- 
ing being what it has become, but 
in terms of artistic development, it 
is a bad mistake. 

Womack’s greatest strength in 
the first -two books was his prose 
style, a style arising out of, and ad- 
mirably expressive of, the extrapo- 
lated world-view of his first-person 
narrators. The message creates the 
ideal medium for its own expres- 
sion. In Heathern, though, there is 
an early warning that style is in 
danger of degenerating toward 
stylization, that Womack’s style. 


under pressure of repetition and 
the genre imperative toward 
greater transparency, is becoming 
less that of the consciousness of his 
narrators, and more of a compro- 
mise between the idiosyncratic in- 
ventiveness arising out of content 
and commercial notions of “read- 
ability.” 

The strange rhythms are still 
there, but muted toward more con- 
ventional melodic expectations, 
the writing is still elegant, but it’s 
all a little less, well, weird, as if 
Womack is making a misguided ef- 
fort to use what he has learned in 
the writing of Ambient and Ter- 
raplane to synthesize a less outre 
stylistic voice, a “Womack style” 
that can be consistent from book to 
book, that preserves something of 
the original flavor while achieving 
a greater transparency that some- 
one has convinced him, alas per- 
haps correctly, will enhance his 
sales as a commercial novelist. 

The optimistic assessment is 
that Womack is consciously grap- 
pling with an artistic dilemma 
that I myself faced when I finished 
Bug Jack Barron. That novel was 
written in a highly idiosyncratic 
prose style, and indeed it was the 
first time that I had been truly con- 
scious of style at all as a writer; it 
was a highly compressed Mc- 
Luhanated style. I did much more 
with language than I had ever 
dreamed of doing before. It all 
seemed to come from some myste- 
rious somewhere, and I was quite 
in love with it. 

The dilemma was . . . now what? 

What was I supposed to do next? 
Return to a conventional standard 
transparent prose seemed a pro- 
cess of sinking back to a previous 


316 


ON BOOKS: STYLE 


level. But continuing to write in 
“Bug Jack Barron style” as was 
suggested to me by more than one 
person would have been to develop 
an ossified prose style, which is to 
say a stylization, which, however 
interesting and even powerful, 
would be unsuitable to other ma- 
terial. 

For of course, the mysterious 
somewhere that the style had come 
from was the content, the necessity 
of conveying the consciousness of 
Jack Barron, media maven, ex- 
Baby Bolshevik, creature of the 
phosphor-dot interface; it was Bar- 
ron’s, not mine. To use the same 
prose to convey the consciousness 
of, say, Adolf Hitler {The Iron 
Dream) or citizens of the Second 
Starfaring Age {The Void Cap- 
tain’s Tale, Child of Fortune) 
would have been as ludicrous a 
mistake as using Hitler’s style to 
render the electronic reality of 
Barron. 

So, not without regret, I came to 
the somewhat sad and daunting 
conclusion that style, as opposed to 
stylization, properly arises out of 
content, no more so than with sci- 
ence fiction, and that one must 
therefore, alas, either develop a 
new one each time out, or opt for 
the default value of transparent 
prose. 

It’s not the singer, it’s the song. 


Which, I suppose, is one of the 
reasons, aside from commercial 
pressure, that so much science fic- 
tion, including much of my own, is 
written in transparent prose. It 
sure is easier, and it does avoid the 
pitfalls of telling a story in an en- 
tirely inappropriate style on the 
one hand, or limiting your content 
to what you can treat with an idio- 
syncratic but ossified and stylized 
prose line on the other. 

Which is also why, however, 
writing one’s first six novels in the 
same fictional universe is not ex- 
actly an ideal strategy for avoiding 
a slow subtle descent from mastery 
of an idiosyncratic style into the 
denatured stylization of same, nor 
an ideal learning experience when 
it comes to generalizing from a sin- 
gle brilliant prose-line arising out 
of the necessity of a single science 
fictional context to the develop- 
ment of a full palate of equally 
puissant multiple styles arising 
out of a wide range of material. 

Jack Womack has certainly al- 
ready demonstrated that he is ca- 
pable of evolving into just such a 
master of stylistic multiplexity. 

One can only hope that, once hav- 
ing fulfilled his contractual obliga- 
tions, he will take the immortal 
words of Monty Python to heart: 

“And now, for something com- 
pletely different. . . . ” • 


ANNOUNCMENT: 

We are pleased to announce that Norman Spinrad’s Science Fic- 
tion In the Real World (Southern Illinois University Press. 1990) has 
been nominated for the Hugo award for best non-fiction. Much of 
this book originally appeared in the pages of lAsfm. 

— The Editors 


NORMAN SPINRAD 


317 




hffiXT ISSUE 


It’s thatWme of year again [you know, the season to be Jolly, etc.), 
and so, in keeping with long tradition, our December issue features 
a Christmas story— in fact, it features two of them. First, Hugo-and 
Nebula-winner Connie Willis, one of lAsfm's most popular writers, 
treats us to the sly, poignant, and very funny story of a modem-style 
Christmas “Miracle” (this one would make a great movie, one of 
those classics they show 735 times a day on TV during the Holiday 
weekend— Hollywood producers take note!). Then Cynthia Felice, 
making a sprightly lAsfm debut, spins the wry story of how a “Second 
Cousin Twice Removed” drops in on a big family Christmas party 
and serves up some surprises that are definitely not on the usual 
Holiday bill of fare. Plus a special seasonal poem by Robert Frazier 
and James Patrick Kelly. And a recipe for Christmas cookies. What 
more could you possibly want? 

For those of you who sit through the holidays muttering "Bah, Hum- 
bug!” under your breath, though, we turn away from seasonal con- 
cerns for the rest of our jam-packed December issue: Nebula-win- 
ner Gregory Benford takes us to an all-too-probable future for an 
unsettling vision of what happens to a society when it reaches “Cen- 
tigrade 233”: Hugo-winner Lawrence Watt-Evans returns to take us 
exploring through some rather unusual “New Worlds,” and finds that 
although getting there may be half the fun, the fun is only starting 
once you do; Eileen Gunn, widely known as one of the truly Weird 
Minds of her generation, lives up to her reputation with a story that 
gives us a unique perspective on the possible alternate lives of 
some rather well-known “Fellow Americans”: hard-science writer 
Allen Steele, in a playful mood, takes us aloft to a space station in 
near-Earth orbit for the macabre and blackly funny saga of “The 
Return of Weird Frank”: Sharon N. Farber paints a vivid picture of a 
small town whose inhabitants relive a battle of the Civil War in a bit 
too literal a fashion, in “The Coyote Recreation”: and, in a semi- 
sequel to his underground classic “Jesse Revenged," the gonzo 
Don Webb takes us fo his own somewhat twisted version of the old 
Wild West, to tell the bizarre story of “Billy Hauser.” Plus an array of 
columns and features. Look for our December issue on sale on your 
newsstand on October 15, 1991. 

COMING SOON: big new novellas by Howard Waldrop, Steven 
Utley, R. Garcia y Robertson, and Avram Davidson, plus new sto- 
ries by Robert Silverberg, Connie Wiilis, Harry Turtledove, Mike 
Resnick, Maureen McHugh, Ben Bova, Thomas M. Disch, Mary Ro- 
senblum, S.P. Somtow, Michael Bishop, Molly Gloss, Tony Daniel, 
Geoffrey A. Landis, and many more. 


Classified Marketplace 

lA NOVEMBER /91 " 


ISAAC ASIMOV/ANALOG combination CLASSIFIED AD rate is $6.50 per word — pay- 
able in advance — ($97.50 minimum). Capitalized words 40c per word additional. To 
be included in the next issue please send order and remittance to I. M. Bozoki, 
Classified Ad Director, DAVIS PUBLICATIONS, INC., 380 Lexington Ave., New York, 
N.Y. 10017. 


ADVENTURE THE CALENDAR FOR 1992 


"LIVE THE ADVENTURE:" a stunning 3-col- 
or, full-size bumper sticker with .original 
artwork. Send $3.00 to: Rogue Productions, 
PO Box 4972, Woodbridge, VA 22194-4972. 


AUTHORS’ SERVICES 


SILICON Valley Writer's Workshop, with Algis 
Budrys, January 19-24. Into: SVWW, 1238 
Prescott, Sunnyvale, CA 94089. 


BOOKS & PERIODICALS 


100.000 science fiction and mystery paper- 
backs, magazines, hardcovers. Free catalogs! 
Pandora's, Box Z-54, Neche, NO 58265. 


FREE CATALOGS Of Science Fiction pulps, 
digests, paperbacks, hardcovers. Collections 
also purchased. Bowman, Box 167, Carmel, 
IN 46032. 


COLLECTORS! Science Fiction/Fantasy 
Books/Paperbacks. Catalogue $2.00. Refund- 
able. Welch, Box 2004, Independence, MO 
64055. 


FANTASTIC COLLECTOR Magazine pro- 
vides for SF./.pulp./.paperback collectors. $3, 
1447 Main, Baton Rouge, LA 70802-4664. 


CATALOGS & DIRECTORIES 


IF You Like Dragons, Wizards, and Fairies; 
send for our catalogue: The Silver Dragon, 
5600 Post Road, East Greenwich, Rl 02818. 
Dept. I. 


DRAGON CATALOG 


FANTASTIC variety of decorative, useful, and 
wearable dragon items. Full-color catalog 
$2.00. Dancing Dragon - ANO, 5670 West 
End #4, Areata, CA 95521. 


TAPES & CASSEHES 


OLDTIME RADIO PROGRAMS. Great Sci- 
ence Fiction! Also, mysteries, comedies, 
westerns. Free catalogue. Carl D. Froellch, 
Heritage Farm, New Freedom, Pennsylvania 
17349. 



I Isaac Asimov’s 
Science Fiction Magazine 
j Presents 

The Art of !M .Taylor Bianchard 
1992 Calendar 

I Order this 1 992 calendar by j 
sending a check or money order i 

(no cash) to: I 

Davis Publications 
; Calendars 

I 380 Lexington Ave. 

1 IVY, AY 10168-0035 

I ! 

In the US, please include price of | 

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: please add 8’A% sales lax) plus 
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additional calendar add $.50. 

: In Canada, remit US dollars, 
include the price of the calendar 
plus $4.00 for shipping and 
handling for the first calendar, 
each additional calendar $1 .75. 



UT CONVENTIONAL 


O 1 CALENDAR 

by Erwin S. Strauss 


Note that rates for the 1992 and 1993 WorldCons rise at the end of 
September. And don’t confuse the two cons named ICon. Plan now for social 
weekends with your favorite SF authors, editors, artists, and fellow fans. For 
a longer, later list, an explanation of cons, and a sample of SF folksongs, 
send me an SASE (addressed, stamped #10 [business] envelope) at Box 
3343, Fairfax VA 22038. The hot line is (703) 2SF-DAYS. If a machine 
answers (with a list of the weekend’s cons), leave a message and I’ll call 
back on my nickel. When writing cons, enclose an SASE. When calling, say 
why right off. Look for me at cons as Filthy Pierre, with music keyboard. 

oo SEPTEMBER 1991 

20-22 — MosCon. For info, write; Box 8521, Moscow ID 83843. Or phone: (208) 882-0364 (10 am to 10 
PM. not coilect). Con will be held in: Moscow ID (if city omitted, same as in address) at the University Inn 
Best Western motel. Guests will include: author Tim Powers, and fan "Dragon." 

20-22 — OutsideCon. A gaming-oriented campout at the Montgomery Bell State Park near Dixon TN. 

27-29 — ConTradlction. Radisson Hotel, Niagara Falls NY, George Alec Effinger, Mercedes Lackey. 

27-30 — AlbaCon. Central Hotel, Glasgow, Scotland. Revival of a traditional con after some years. 


, , OCTOBER 1991 

4-6 — WeaponsCon, % Box75,Duquesne PA 15110. (412)466-3803. Pittsburgh PA. SF/fantasy weapons. 


4-6 — ErotiCon, 17 Guildford St., Brighton, BN1 3LA, UK. Donnington Manor Hotel, Sevenoaks Kent UK. 


4-6 — RoVaCon, Box .117, Salem VA 24153. (703) 389-9400. Hal Clement, Richard Pini. Media oriented. 


4-6 — ConText, Box 2954, Columbus OH 43216. (614) 889-0436. Niven, J. Tarr. Written SF (no media). 


4-6 — Irish Nat'l. Con, 23 Rushbrook Ct., Templeogue Dublin 6W, Eire. Royal Marine. Dun Laoghaire. 


4-6 — MinnCon, 3136 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis MN 55407. (612) 825-8256. Dark fantasy and horror. 


11-1 3 — BoucherCon, 2334 Beach Ave., Venice CA 90291. Pasadena CA. The World Mystery Convention. 


11-13 — icon. Box 525, Iowa City lA 52244. (319) 377-5929. Coralville lA. Sixteenth annual con. 


11-1 3 — NonCon, Box 4071, Edmonton AB T6E 4S8, Canada. (403) 463-3522. Fourteenth annual edition. 


1 1 -1 3 — ArmadilloCon, Box 9612, Austin TX 78766. (512) 990-3782. Dan Simmons, E. Bull. Amy Stout. 


11-13 — icon. Box 30004, 3995 Quadra #104, Victoria BC V8X 5E1. (604) 389-1123. Fax: 383-0112. 


11-13 — NecronomiCon, Box 2076, Rivetview FL 33569. (813) 677-6347. Tampa FL. Anthony, Norton. 


18-20 — MileHiCon, Box 27074, Lakewood CO 80277. (303) 985-8569. S. Tapper. K. Walker. C. Willis. 


SEPTEMBER 1992 

3-7 — MagICon, Box 621992, Orlando FL 32862. (407) 859-8421. The World SF Con. $85 to 9/30/91. 


SEPTEMBER 1993 

2-6 — ConFrancisco, Box 22097, San Francisco CA 94122. (916) 349-1670. WorldCon. $70 to 9/30/91. 



▼ STEP UP TO A HEALTHIER YOU 


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